Salmon Arm’s TechBrew Robotics is in the process of building a robotic system for mushroom picking. (Contributed)

Salmon Arm’s TechBrew Robotics is in the process of building a robotic system for mushroom picking. (Contributed)

Salmon Arm innovator’s robotics win over Okanagan Angels investors

Mike Boudreau and TechBrew Robotics solving decades-old mushroom-picking challenge

Industrial robotic technology brewed in Salmon Arm earned local innovator Mike Boudreau top prize in this year’s OKGN Angel Summit.

Organized by Accelerate Okanagan, an organization that provides support to new and existing tech companies, the summit was a 10-week program that introduced investors of varying experience to companies looking for their support. It provided educational opportunities for investors and companies alike.

According to a March 19 release from Accelerate Okanagan, after 10 weeks of pitches, meetings, due diligence and training, Boudreau, founder of TechBrew Robotics, took home a $145,000 investment fund and was voted the 2021 OKGN Angel Summit’s winner.

The summit was an opportunity for Boudreau to attract the attention of investors keen to support his company’s mushroom picking technology, something he said has been sought after for more than 30 years.

“It came down to two technical hurdles: one was to find the right mushroom to pick and the second was to pick it without damaging it because mushrooms are very delicate,” said Boudreau.

After much research the company came up with a plan to demonstrate in its local facility that a robot could be constructed that could overcome those hurdles. That was accomplished a year ago.

Read more: Salmon Arm firm receives funds to develop mushroom-picking robot

Read more: Finalists named for Okanagan entrepreneur summit

“Because so many people have attempted to do this and failed around the world, there’s a lot of skepticism in the industry, so not only did we have to demonstrate it in our facility here in Salmon Arm, we had to demonstrate it on the farms, on their existing growing racks,” said Boudreau. This too was accomplished with phase two of TechBrew’s mushroom picking robot, which was demonstrated at two farms in the Fraser Valley.

The goal, Boudreau explained, is to build a fully automated system that would find the mushroom, pick it, take it through a trim station, trim the dirt off the bottom and then put the mushroom into a package that you would find in the store.

“Once we’re happy with its performance here, that will move to the farm in the Fraser Valley and go through pilot trials, hopefully in April-May, and then at the end of that, we expect an order for 40 to 100 robots from the first customer,” said Boudreau.

A founder of the Okanagan Angel Network in Kelowna, Boudreau spoke highly of the summit, encouraged by how active the Angel investing community is in the Okanagan and in Western Canada.

“It’s great to have the OKGN Angel Summit here in the Interior… to educate on how to make an angel investment and how to receive an investment. It’s a marvellous model for the individuals on both sides of the table,” said Boudreau.
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