Former DJI Chief Scientist Wu Di, FJ Dynamics, recently closed a $ 70 million Series B funding round, with the goal of empowering workers in the most demanding environments to use robotic technology.
When I asked Wu about the distinction between his company’s farm robots, he offered a response that would make any publicist sweat: “I don’t think our technology is that special. The company’s goal, according to Li, is to provide practical and inexpensive robots for the most labor-intensive industries.
“You can have the most advanced AI algorithms,” he continued, “But if the technology doesn’t work on the production line or on the farm, because you don’t have any experience in it. industry, so how does your technology benefit people? “
Before FJDynamics, Wu was involved in the development of advanced technologies. He was the company’s chief scientist and oversaw DJI’s purchase of Victor Hasselblad AB, a 180-year-old Swedish camera maker, in 2017.
Before returning to China, he spent ten years in Sweden, where he obtained his doctorate in domain-specific processor design. He also worked for the factory-less semiconductor company Coresonic AB and Koenigsegg AB, a Swedish manufacturer of luxury sports cars.
“After seeing all of this cutting edge technology, it’s hard to call us a high tech company,” said the company founder, who wore a slightly worn checkered shirt and small glasses.
We were seated in a makeshift meeting room, made up of a few desks separated from the rest of the open plan office by removable walls. The company, which was based in Shenzhen, China’s tech mecca, was growing rapidly and had around 1,000 employees.
In 2019, Wu left DJI to found FJDynamics, a company specializing in agricultural robots. The company’s mission was to develop agriculture-related technologies for unmanned lawn mowers, orchard sprayers and food pushing machines. Since then, it has spread to industries that require a lot of manual labor, such as construction and manufacturing.
Chinese companies like FJDynamics are in high demand from investors as Beijing pushes for digital transformation across all of the country’s traditional industries. FJDynamics has attracted a number of prominent investors, including Tencent and state-owned automaker Dongfeng Asset Management. DJI had held a stake in the company from the start, but then sold its shares.
The company declined to name its only investor in its most recent Series B round, saying only that it was a major Chinese internet company.
The funding will allow them to “develop its range of robotic automation technologies in agriculture, facility management, construction and gardening, while meeting the growing demand for ESG product offerings in the world. ‘company in more than 60 countries’.
A few engineers have left DJI to start their own businesses or join other people’s fledgling projects over the years. Portable battery maker EcoFlow, hair dryer developer Zuvi, and electric toothbrush maker Evora are just a few of the more well-known names.
It is his growing distance from “high-end” equipment that has kept him away from an important position in the largest drone company in the world.
“If you look at how robotic technology is applied, there are a lot of companies that use drones and autonomous vehicles. But the majority of people on earth do not take advantage of it.
“Agriculture, construction, gardening… The working conditions in these sectors are physically demanding and many of us still do this kind of work. The question is how do we use robotic technology to improve their work environment, and that doesn’t mean just replacing them with robots, ”said the founder.
FJDynamics’ popular product is the automated feed lifter. Cows need 10 feeding intervals throughout the day to produce high quality milk.
Farms must have workers on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For example, a farm with 500 head of cattle needs at least three grass feeders to operate in shifts. However, in areas where resources are limited, farms may not be able to employ as many people and staff will take care of livestock all day, even in the coldest season.
The aim of the company ‘JFJDynamics’ is to make life easier for farmers. The company’s mission feeder, which costs around € 20,000 each, can feed up to 500 animals per day. In 2019, it acquired the 110-year-old Swedish agricultural company Sveaverken, which has contributed to the use of Chinese feeding robot technology.
“I never talk to my clients about technology. The farmer is more interested in whether my product can help improve crop yields, “Wu said.” Every farmer is an economist. “
Due to the company’s goal of reducing technology costs, margins are “tight” and management is concerned about operating expenses.
In 2021, the company is targeting annual sales of more than ten billion dollars. Two years ago, the company’s total sales were only about $ 1.5 million per year; today they are almost double that number and are increasing at a rapid rate. To date, around 40% of the startup’s revenue comes from outside of China, with 60 countries represented. Many Chinese companies expanding into other countries are increasingly cautious about their origins, fearing anti-Chinese sentiment. Wu takes a more proactive approach.
“Even though I’ve lived in Europe for ten years, I can’t tear my skin off. I don’t think it matters whether it’s a Chinese, American or Swedish entrepreneur… As long as you create great products and bring benefits to my customers, there will be users.
Compliance is essential for the global expansion of any business. FJDynamics provides the hardware and software, while local partners support the deployment process using the data. Outside of China, Microsoft Azure is its primary cloud partner to enable “elastic” deployment while meeting GDPR data privacy standards.
“Our culture is that we don’t want data,” Wu said.
The founder said FJDynamics’ technologies use core chips that can be purchased in China, making the company unlikely to be affected by recent supply chain disruptions.
Even though Wu is not currently working on the most advanced technology, he is constantly looking for new methods to impart his expertise. He teaches at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen while not inventing the next agricultural robot.
“I live a simple life that focuses on two things: the product [FJDynamics] and education, ”said the founder. “I saw a lot of things and realized that money cannot change you or make you happier. So you need a simple goal, and achieving that simple goal makes your life happier.
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