How the autonomous farm robot, Burro, went to market and scaled in a single step

Burro is an autonomous, collaborative machine designed to make farmworkers more productive and to reduce workplace injuries. This 4-wheeled workhorse helps workers pick and transport crops using simple, non-technical commands.

The challenge

“We’re deploying and we’re ready to scale”

Just 3 years after their launch, Burro had already successfully prototyped, tested, refined, and readied their product for deployment. Anyone in the field of robotics knows that this is already a standalone achievement. However, before their product could be deployed at scale, the Burro team needed to establish 3 essential capabilities:

Easy, real-time monitoring

Burro needed to monitor their robots in the field — rural farms. Seeing what their robots were doing was critical, so getting video and images were a priority, but also metrics like nav state, battery charge, CPU temperature, distance traveled, GPS and more. They also knew that they needed to be able to add and subtract metrics easily — they were just getting started. Flexibility would allow them to iterate their way to fleet omniscience.

Simple-to-sophisticated support tools

Whether it was from their regional office in California, from their headquarters in Philadelphia, or from a van parked at a farm, remotely supporting robots was key to ensuring profitability. Remote support started with event tracking but also included the ability to issue commands, teleoperate, SSH, upload and review rosbags, and more.

Simple ways to share data

The ability to easily demonstrate value and results to clients was important. Farmers were excited to experience the innovation — they wanted to “ride along” with the robots in the field. The team envisioned lightweight ways to share real-time dashboards with anyone.

The solution

Formant’s SaaS platform delivered value to Burro quickly — and with minimal configuration. Formant provides a data backbone for the company’s fleet of robots. Burro can now understand and optimize its business across any dimension without building and maintaining custom cloud infrastructure.

Fleet observability

The ability to access a robot’s data at any point along its timeline (now, 10 minutes ago, last week), is the linchpin for running a RaaS business. With Formant, Burro’s team has omniscience: at a moment’s notice, it can jump to any robot and immediately understand its context. The time-series database powering Formant’s core dashboard provides a rich, interactive record of performance — it enables Burro to turn observations and analysis into higher performance.

We have critical, time-stamped metrics from the entire fleet at our fingertips. This enables us to rapidly correlate regressions or improvements in performance, aiding our team to deploy accurate and timely updates.

Terry Scott — Co-Founder & CTO, Burro

Remote support

Giving engineers and less technical team members discrete tools is key to controlling costs and keeping robots moving. Burro configured Formant to allow operators to teleoperate robots with simplified commands — but it also provides a robust interface for rosbag collection (all within the context of LTE bandwidth considerations).

Using a time series database such as Formant, we can analyze individual behaviors of our robot fleets over time. We can then use these metrics and not conjecture to drive discussion and decisions for the development of next generation of robots.

Vibhor Sood — Co-Founder & Robotic Software Engineer, Burro

Stakeholder management

Formant’s dashboards are easy to configure — and easy to share. Burro’s customers — farm owners — wanted to “ride along” the deployments. Burro created unique views in Formant for them and then shared the views via a link.

“You walk into one of our customers’ offices, and they’ll have a big TV set up showing their fleet on Formant all day long. Set up a customer to view it, and you’ll get texts like: ‘Got it. I signed on. This is out of this world.'”

Charlie Andersen — Co-Founder & CEO, Burro


Burro is scaling. Now, with Formant, they can now understand and optimize their business across any dimension without building and maintaining custom cloud infrastructure.

“The people we sell to want to have 5,000 robots running around their fields — and they want to sit in a room and see them on a screen. This is where the world is headed right now, and Formant is helping us make that a reality.”

Charlie Andersen – CEO, Burro