Swap Robotics entered our orbit last year, when the firm was a finalist for our Battlefield competition at Disrupt 2022. In a world full of robot mowers, the startup grabbed the judges’ attention with a modular design that allows for the titular quick swapping of batteries and functionality with attachments for things like snowplowing.
The firm also made waves with a far more specialized focus than most. Rather than going after every commercial or home lawn, Swap has focused its efforts exclusively on solar farms — a growing market, to be sure.
“The solar market is a beachhead market for us,” founder and CEO Tim Lichti tells TechCrunch. “Starting with solar vegetation cutting solves a massive problem for customers, since cutting the grass and vegetation is the biggest ongoing expense once utility-scale solar installations are built. Large solar sites are fenced off from the public, and that allows our 100% electric robots to safely run 24/7 and maximize acreage cut per month. The global market for solar cuts is expected to reach tens of billions of dollars annually by the 2030s.”
While the company failed to walk away with the top prize, it has grabbed bankable investor interest. Today it’s announced a $7 million seed round, led by SOLV Energy, a California-based solar provider. The round also features backing from SOSV’s HAX division.
It’s a difficult fundraising environment, to be certain, but Lichti says the current excitement around sustainability efforts was enough to counteract those headwinds when it came to raising the company’s seed.
“Raising in the current economic climate has been fairly easy for us as a climate tech–focused company,” he adds. “We have the tailwinds of the IRA, an industry-leading product and an experienced team of 40 people. We’re currently in talks with several of the 50 largest solar asset owners for additional investment.”
The company has already begun deploying its systems to select farms in the southern U.S., with plans to expand to other parts of the country in 2023. An international expansion is expected to begin next year. For now, the solar market alone is a large focus for the company’s growth, particularly in the wake of an ongoing labor shortage.
Swap charges through a subscription-based RaaS (robots-as-a-service) model, based on a variety of factors, including frequency and terrain. Lichti says the company has already lined up $9 million in contracts for the next three years.