Amazon-owned robotaxi firm Zoox this week announced that it has acquired Strio.AI. The Boston-based robotics startup was founded in 2020 by MIT alumns to bring autonomous picking and pruning to strawberry crops. It got up and running quickly during the pandemic, bringing its first prototype system to farms in California and Florida within about six months.
The acquisition is more of an acqui-hire, really. Strio co-founder and CEO Ruijie He joins Zoox as director of Perception, while four of its senior engineers will be integrated into the team. The move also finds the Bay Area-based Zoox opening its first East Coast R&D site with the Strio team.
“During our conversations with RJ and the other members of the Strio.AI team, we were continually impressed by their technical expertise, entrepreneurial spirit, and approach to developing state-of-the-art perception systems,” Zoox said in a blog post. “We’re thrilled to welcome them aboard as we continue advancing our autonomous technology.”
The acquisition means that Strio will be winding down its ag tech work, instead integrating their work in things like perception into Zoox’s broader robotaxi plans. The move comes a few weeks after Bowery Farming acquired Traptic’s strawberry-picking robots for integration into its indoor vertical farms. Like the Zoox move, Bowery’s acquisition effectively took Traptic’s robots out of the field.
Conventional wisdom holds that there’s a lot of opportunity for autonomous robotics in ag tech, but many of the main players in the category have had difficulty making it too far down that road. Abundant’s apple-picking robots are another key example. Though for the robotics category in general, acquisition is often a solid outcome, particularly for a young company like Strio.
For Zoox, meanwhile, it means access to more talent and a presence in the robotics research hub of Boston.