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Robotics Plus gets Yamaha backing to accelerate expansion, partner with global player

Friday 23rd March 2018

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Robotics Plus has secured investment from Yamaha Motor's venture investment arm to help accelerate the robot maker's expansion plans and give it a partner with a global footprint and deep knowledge of manufacturing. 

Tauranga-based Robotics Plus is part of the Plus Group of companies, developing robotics and automation solutions for agricultural businesses, such as post-harvest fruit packing robotics, harvesting and pollination systems for orchard robotics, and autonomous agricultural vehicles. Chair Steve Saunders declined to disclose the investment amount but says it will help speed up the expansion of the Robotics Plus team, and also builds a partnership between the Kiwi agritech firm and the multinational automaker to pool their talents in developing the technology. 

"The investment allows us to fast-track our team growth," Saunders told BusinessDesk. "At the same time alongside the investment we've got a partnership agreement as well that allows us to have conversations around being able to work with Yamaha Motors and look at some of our technologies." 

The investment is through the Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley, which has identified agritech as an industry worth exploring due to the potential for greater automation with an ageing workforce and need to secure sustainable processes to meet demand. 

Silicon Valley-based chief operations officer George Kellerman said the vertical integration of Robotics Plus was a selling point for the Yamaha unit as a potential investor, as was the Southern Hemisphere location allowing for year-round research and development in a seasonal industry. 

"Part of working with Robotics Plus is to learn, to get that experience," he said. 

Both Kellerman and Saunders talk up the level of New Zealand government support, through entities such as New Zealand Trade & Enterprise and Callaghan Innovation, in drumming up international interest in Kiwi firms. 

Saunders says attracting multinational companies as partners is important in developing the domestic talent pipeline, where R&D and the building of intellectual property can be kept local, while leveraging global networks to build businesses of scale. 

"As New Zealand, we need to think about that - we don't have scale in New Zealand so if we're going to scale we have to be globally relevant. We have great capability and great young minds," he said. "Part of this has been an objective for me to prove that we can attract multi-nationals to New Zealand who are interested in the technology developed here and we can create the environments for our young talents coming out of university into global high-tech companies that have an R&D base in New Zealand." 


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