Fetch Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup that’s bringing robots and a supporting cloud-based software system to industrial environments, today announced a $46 million Series C round of funding. The round was led by Fort Ross Ventures, with additional participation from CEAS Investments, Redwood Technologies, TransLink Capital and Zebra Ventures. All existing investors – O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Softbank Capital and Sway Ventures – also participated.
Fetch Robotics now has raised $94 million to date. The funding will be used for international expansion, to meet accelerating customer demand and for ongoing research and development.
“Customers have responded enthusiastically to our unique Cloud Robotics solution, and we’re responding by securing the funds we need to continue growing and enhancing our offerings,” Melonee Wise, CEO of Fetch Robotics, said in a statement. “The competitive pressures for excellence in logistics have never been greater. Our Autonomous Mobile Robots and cloud platform enable our customers to meet their customers’ demands while meeting their own financial objectives.”
Founded in 2014, San Jose-based Fetch Robotics develops autonomous robots that operate among humans in locations such as warehouses, factories and distribution centers. As labor shortages and delivery pressures bear down on manufacturing, the warehousing robotics space has flourished, with startups such as Geek+ and 6 River Systems catering to fast-growing ecommerce industrial customers that require the speed and efficiency of automation.
One such customer is Universal Logistics Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: ULH), a full service transportation and logistics provider that recently deployed the Fetch Cloud Robotics Platform in its one million square-foot Smyrna, Tennessee logistics facility. The plant serves the nearby Nissan Motors plant, the largest auto manufacturing facility in North America.
Smyrna has one of the lowest overall unemployment rates in the United States at 2.4 percent. This makes it especially difficult to meet the demand for logistics workers and leads to chronic under-staffing situations, Universal CEO Jeff Rogers, said in the statement.
“In Smyrna as in many markets we serve, we face chronic labor shortages, at times in excess of 10 percent of our required staff, which puts significant pressure on everyone from the workers on the floor to senior management.”
The Fetch Robotics system provides an answer to the problem, Rogers said. “Because the system installs so quickly – we had it fully operational in less than a week – we’re able to boost output and manage our costs. And our workers like it because the robots take on the less interesting, more laborious tasks.”
Universal is using 10 Fetch CartConnect robots in conjunction with 40 carts to automate several key processes in the Smyrna warehouse. This enables the company to meet its targets while reducing the nearly continuous need to ask employees to work overtime.
Universal opted for the Fetch Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) monthly fee model, minimizing its upfront investment.
The cloud-driven aspect of the Fetch Cloud Robotics Platform enables speedy and cost- efficient deployment in warehouse environments, said John Santagate, Research Director at IDC, in the release.
“On top of the physical element of modern robotics…the cloud robotics approach at Fetch is something that is enabling warehouses to rapidly realize the benefits of robotics and making it easier for companies to deploy and use robots in their operation.”