TerraClear Raises $4.7M for Machine Designed to Pick Rocks from Soil

TerraClear Raises $4.7M for Machine Designed to Pick Rocks from Soil

TerraClear, a Bellevue, WA-based startup launched two years ago with the vision of using software and high-tech machinery to automatically remove rocks from soil farmers plan to grow crops in, has raised nearly $4.7 million to support commercialization efforts, according to a regulatory filing.

Three investors participated in the equity funding round, the filing shows. TerraClear previously raised more than $5.5 million from investors in a financing disclosed to regulators last July.

Multiple members of TerraClear’s leadership team, including co-founder and president Brent Frei, previously worked at Smartsheet (NYSE: SMAR). Frei was among those who in 2005 helped to launch that company, a Bellevue-based developer of collaborative project-tracking software for business users that went public a year ago.

Frei stepped down as chair of Smartsheet’s board of directors in 2017, and co-founded TerraClear that same year, according to his LinkedIn profile. (He continues to hold a seat on Smartsheet’s board, the company says on its website.)

After taking a step back from Smartsheet’s day-to-day operations, Frei returned to his hometown, Grangeville, ID, according to TerraClear’s website. There, “he was quickly put to work picking rock” from farm fields, TerraClear says, and “reminded of the human toll of rock picking.”

Each spring, farmers across the country prepare fields so they can use them to grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and other crops. One component of this prep work is plowing a field to expose the underlying soil to the sun. Another is removing rocks, which can rise up toward the surface due to factors such as freezing temperatures and soil-tilling. Rocks can damage crops and equipment if left unpicked.

TerraClear says it’s developing an “automated agricultural implement” to clear rocks from fields. Last year, Frei described the machine the startup is working to build as a “Roomba for rock picking,” referencing the smart vacuum cleaner, in a GeekWire article.

In order for the machine to know where to probe for rocks, TerraClear says it would use aerial vehicles to capture images of fields, then develop and train software to analyze the images and plot a rock-removal route. The system would bring together concepts from several high-tech fields, including machine vision, robotics, GPS, and aerial sensing, TerraClear says.

TerraClear says that in addition to its headquarters in the Seattle area, the startup has a satellite office in Grangeville.

In addition to Frei, the other employees who list themselves on LinkedIn as co-founders of TerraClear are VP of engineering Vivek Nayak; Koos Du Preez, an engineer; and Thayne Kollmorgen, who works in field operations.

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