Regina, Saskatchewan-based Prairie Robotics, a developer of artificial intelligence-enabled technology for recycling, has closed a C$690,000 seed financing. The round was led by Conexus Venture Capital, with participation from Max Schmeiser, Kerry Lumbard and Dan Cugnet.
(REGINA, SK, July 15, 2021) – Saskatchewan-based CleanTech startup, Prairie Robotics, announces today the recent closing of a CAD $690,000 seed round, led by Conexus Venture Capital Inc, with participation from Max Schmeiser, Kerry Lumbard, and Dan Cugnet. Headquartered in Regina, Saskatchewan, Prairie Robotics focuses on creating new technologies in the smart-city space to make recycling simple.
Prairie Robotics was started by founders Sam Dietrich and Stevan Mikha, who initially met while completing their Engineering Degrees at the University of Regina. Upon graduating, they continued to work together at one of Canada’s leading agtech companies, DOT Technology Corp and honed their skills in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. However, their interest in building products for the future smart city, particularly to create solutions that reduce the amount of waste people produce, drove them to submit a solution to the Innovation Challenge produced by Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment in 2019.
Through this Innovation Challenge with the Saskatchewan government, Sam and Stevan created IoT products for the landfill and quickly learned that making an impact would require data analysis at the household level. This discovery spawned Prairie Robotics. Specifically, Prairie Robotics works with municipalities to use their IoT-based solution to place cameras, GPS, and computers onboard recycling collection vehicles. This new proprietary technology allows municipalities and waste management companies to identify contaminants at the household level. Prairie Robotics is fundamentally changing the economics and impact of the recycling industry by removing contamination from the recycling stream.
“We’ve made tremendous strides over the past year in harnessing our proprietary computer vision technology to understand how we can identify contaminants as the recycling bin is being emptied, and help cities educate households on the mistakes they’re making,” said Sam Dietrich, Co-Founder & CEO of Prairie Robotics. “Through our pilot projects with a handful of municipalities across Western Canada, we’re learning that many of the mistakes people make in adding contaminants to their recycling are simply due to a lack of education. By using our targeted education platform we can significantly reduce the recycling processing costs and the environmental impacts of contaminants.”
“The initial results from Prairie Robotics have been extraordinary,” said Sean O’Connor, Managing Director, Conexus Venture Capital Inc. “As we look forward to the enablement of smart cities around the world, one of the high impact initiatives we can collectively ensure is creating greener cities with less waste. We believe Sam and Stevan are well ahead of the curve in identifying this trend, and their prairie grit combined with technical skills has allowed them to build some truly unique products in a short period of time.”
The Prairie Robotics journey shows how far the Saskatchewan tech ecosystem has come in its ability to support high-performing founders. The company found its initial traction through winning the Saskatchewan Innovation Challenge in 2019, then was able to access further funding through the Saskatchewan Advantage Innovation Fund in 2020. Through these pivotal years, Prairie Robotics was working through both of the province’s accelerators; Cultivator in Regina and Co.Labs in Saskatoon. Finally, the company is planning to access the Saskatchewan Technology Startup Incentive (STSI) program to offer investors in this round a 45% tax credit. As they continued to grow, they became one of the very few startups ever accepted into the Montreal-based Next.AI program focused on promising AI startups.
“The entire SK ecosystem has been incredible for us. When it comes to solving complex problems in the physical world, we have some of the best talents with blended skills across hardware, software, and machine learning,” said Dietrich. “Having the support of programs like what Innovation Saskatchewan and Conexus Credit Union have provided has been paramount in helping provide a foundation for us to build from. We are excited to be working with Conexus Venture Capital Inc., along with the domain expertise from Max Schmeiser’s experience as the Head of Data Science at Twitter, and Dan Cugnet’s longtime experience as an operator in waste management, having previously owned Goliath Disposal in Southern Saskatchewan.”