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ListaFirst North Stockholm
Ekobot är ett teknikbolag inriktade mot jordbruksindustrin. Bolaget är en utvecklare av robotik och AI- lösningar som vidare används för automation inom jordbruksproduktion med särskilt fokus på grönsaksodling. Robotarna används för ogräsbekämpning och leasas ut till kund under en längre tidsperiod. Utöver huvudverksamheten erbjuds teknisk support och installation på plats. Störst verksamhet återfinns inom Nederländerna och den nordiska marknaden och bolaget har huvudkontor i Västerås.
2024-02-14 11:35:47

Company: Ekobot
Listings: First North Stockholm
Ticker: Ekobot
Market cap at time of publication: 11 million SEK
Stock price at time of publication: 0,58 SEK
Comparable peers: Farmdroid, Naio Technologies
Business:  Sustainable agriculture technology
Website: https://www.ekobot.se/

Executive summary:
We are initiating coverage on the Swedish agtech company Ekobot. Ekobot is a company redefining the traditional global agricultural landscape through cutting-edge technology. Ekobot addresses the pressing need for sustainable land management. The company has developed an innovative farming robot which both removes weed and collects not only valuable crop data but also general agricultural data and status of growth. The unique abilities of Ekobot enables for a potential of 5-20 % higher yield for conventional farmers when using Ekobots solution instead of harmful pesticides.  For farmers which are using an ecological farming process the cost for clearing weeds is reduced by 40 % using Ekobots unique robotic system. These features are unique for Ekobot on the current market. Labor shortage is a real challenge for farmers especially in Europe today and this is something Ekobot addresses with their product.
There are strong incentives within the European Union to reduce the use of harmful pesticides which is totally in line with Ekobots product offer. There is even work underway to reduce chemical pesticides by 50 % until 2030.  Faced with tighter regulations farmers will be faced by the two options of either employing more manual labor or using robotic solutions such as Ekobot.  For a conventional farmer using Ekobot's product it becomes profitable after being used for only two seasons after implementation thanks to a higher crop yield and longer durability for the crops. Longer durability is however not taken into account for the overall cost reduction in Ekobot's system and this is rather an added bonus for farmers. Studies show that onions which are harvested with Ekobots weeding system has a 50 % lower loss rate in storage than onions which have had pesticides used for weeding. For ecological farmers the Ekobot solution is profitable already during the first growing season of implementation thanks to the significant reduction of labor costs.
The company focuses on the most high value crops to grow (such as onions and carrots) which also gives the greatest financial benefit for the farmers who use their product. There is a big global market for agricultural robots and its expected that this market will be worth $13,4 billion USD by 2028. (https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/agricultural-robots-market?gclid=CjwKCAjwvpCkBhB4EiwAujULMkAyPRugfEDj4nQcIwUqTKW_WvqIwEuGfRhKqQ0VfhY65IS_AxFVgxoCLbUQAvD_BwE) The company seemingly has a technological advantage against its significantly higher valued competitors. With a new and revised go to market strategy in which the company mainly will use established distributors instead of their own sales force should enable for Ekobot, by their own estimates, to take a 5 % market share in the European Union by 2030 and to have opened in the UK and the United States. (https://www.placera.se/placera/pressmeddelanden/2023/08/21/ekobot-ekobot-presents-an-updated-strategy-with-a-focus-on-sales-via-distributors-and-the-goal-of-achieving-a-5-percent-market-share-within-the-eu-by-2030.html)  At the core of Ekobot's mission is the fusion of technology and sustainability, specializing in precision agriculture through the use of autonomous robotics. Put short Ekobot revolutionizes conventional farming practices. Ekobot's mission is certainly aligned with the principles of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). Specializing in robotic solutions for precision agriculture, Ekobot leverages autonomous technology to enhance farming practices. Ekobot's solutions contribute to sustainable agriculture, addressing key challenges in resource utilization and environmental impact. The main difference between Ekobots system and its competitors is that most robotic companies are making a robot simply as a replacement for tractors. These competitors do not have intelligent tools adapted for autonomous weeding. Ekobot's solution is a completely autonomous one with very high precision which is specialized on weeding. The system is unique in its ability to detect identify and with pinpoint accuracy using artificial intelligence to remove weeds with their special mechanical system.

Market strategy
The major client group for Ekobot is conventional farmers that are under pressure from authorities to reduce the use of harmful chemical pesticides and to only use these pesticides for such crops which can't be handled with other methods. However ecological farmers have a faster return on investment than conventional farmers since Ekobot can drastically reduce the use for manual labor.

Ekobot have recently changed their market strategy and have adopted a new strategic plan as of 21[st] of august 2023. The focus of this new strategic plan will be to use distributors as main source of sales and by using this they hope to reach a 5 % market share within the EU by 2030 as well as establishing a presence in both the United States and the United Kingdom. This new strategic plan is very ambitious however it may, short term, according to the company lead to slightly lower robot deliveries in 2024 but elevated sales in 2025 and onwards. As Ekobot is still a small actor and have to use their funding wisely ESGFIRE thinks this new strategy is a wise approach by using distributors instead of expanding your own sales organization. The company has one salesperson in Sweden and the rest of the sales is handled in the Netherlands by the company's distributor Homburg Holland which has a turnover of close to 15 million EUROS and more than 25 employees. Homburg Holland will manage marketing and sales in the Dutch market, as well as handle delivery, training, support, service, spare parts, and warranty matters. Our estimate is that the distribution deal with Homburg Holland potentially should be worth close to 1 million EUR during 2024-2025.  ESGFIRE is of the opinion that it is most likely that the majority of near terms sales will come from Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands as the company already have established relations in these regions. The success factor of this new strategy will depend on the distributors ability to deliver sales, customer support, service and spare parts. By using a distributor with an existing sales and service network Ekobot can tap into existing infrastructure using local partners. By applying this strategy, the threshold for local customers in using new technology should become considerably lower than if they had to rely on Ekobot alone to deliver all aspects. Ekobot does not have to finance a whole new salesforce and service/support network which is something that will be extremely cost effective in comparison to the previous corporate strategy.
On the cautionary side we want to point out that it can be risky to outsource your sales results to other stakeholders as the own ability to influence actual sales output will decrease.

Technological advantages and competitors
Below is a shortlist of competitors which we think are of interest when reviewing Ekobot as an investment case. ESGFIRE is of the opinion that one should take into account the valuation of the competitors of Ekobot as this gives a good guidance of how the industry is valued abroad.  Ekobot has priced their robots at approximately €;105000 EUR per robot which is in the median price range among competitors however this price includes a complete intelligent system for automatic weed removal, many of the competitors prices listed below only include a robot without tools or a robot operating without AI. Ekobot has an exceptional  solution for identifying weeds using vision technology and artificial intelligence, the company's robot can cut weed at the root level, which reduces the risk of new root shoots from weeds while the crop does not have to compete with weeds for water, nutrients, and light. Ekobot can also be adapted as needed to different large areas, for example by handling several rows of crops at the same time and by using existing space very efficiently. Typically, a seedbed is 150-230 centimeters wide and contains 5-9 rows of crops. Ekobot's robot is able to process all these rows within a seedbed at the same occasion.
Further advantages worth mentioning is that Ekobot's robot system has a low weight compared to tractors and are powered by electric motors and is very power efficient. The robot carries with it a battery system that can be charged with renewable energy, for example through solar cells, via a battery replacement system or via mains connection. Thanks to its low weight and low power, the Ekobot robot system can be completely grid-independent and thereby becomes carbon dioxide neutral during its operation further enhancing the ESG standard.
Name: Farmdroid (https://farmdroid.dk/en/welcome/)
Marketplace: Private
Valuation: 3-500 million SEK *
Nationality: Danish
Founded: 2015
Robots online: 300
Financials: Profitable
Price per robot: 750 k - 1 million SEK
Advantages: Cheap, simple to use
Ekobot advantage: Ekobot's robot can be used for more difficult crops than Farmdroids is able to process. Ekobot also has a lot higher precision in its weeding system and Farmdroids system is based on the condition that the farmer also has used their special seed plantation system.
*According to latest financing rounds.
Name: Naio Technologies (https://www.naio-technologies.com/en/home/)
Marketplace: Private
Valuation: 1500-2000 million SEK**
Nationality: French
Founded: 2011
Robots online: Unknown
Financials: Private placement of 33 MUSD made in 2022.
Price per robot: 2,5 million SEK
Advantages: Generical robot tractor which can be used in combination with existing farmers equipment.
Ekobot advantage: Ekobot has a higher precision in their robots than Naio.
**Valuation estimate by latest financing round. (https://www.im.natixis.com/en-institutional/news/naio-technologies-raises-33-million-us-dollars-to-accelerate-its-industrial-and-commercial-growth)
Name: Ecorobotix (https://ecorobotix.com/en/)
Marketplace: Private
Valuation: Unknown
Nationality: Swiss
Founded: 2011
Robots online: Unknown
Financials: Made a private placement of 53 million USD in May 2023. (https://pitchbook.com/profiles/company/101263-42#timeline)
Price per robot: Unknown
Advantages: High work output, can handle large areas and offers precision pesticide deployment.
Ekobot advantage:  Ekobot does not use pesticides.
Competitive conclusion:
Ecorobotix, renowned for its solar-powered robots, focuses on weeding applications. While both Ecorobotix and Ekobot share a commitment to sustainability, Ekobot's broader range of autonomous and smart AI applications and crop imaging, presents a more versatile and holistic solution for modern agriculture. Ekobots ability to process and present digital pictures gives a variety of information regarding the conditions on the status of the crops such as need for water, fertilization, predictions on growth and crop yield . On the other end Naio Technologies, with its weeding and hoeing robots, is a key player in agtech. However, Ekobot's emphasis on precision farming and a more comprehensive suite of solutions positions it as a company with a broader impact on the entire agricultural value chain. Finally, Farmdroid, specializing in autonomous seed planting, addresses a crucial aspect of farming. However, Ekobot's diversified applications, which gives the farmer a diversity of information on the status of the crop makes it a more comprehensive and adaptable solution for modern, sustainable agriculture. The bottom line is that Ekobots system enables for farmers to adopt precision farming at a new and unprecedented level which , through collection of field data, makes it possible to enable AI-based decision making throughout the crop growth process.
Considering that Ekobots prices include an entire system they appear to be priced below the median price compared to their competitors despite having a robot system which in many aspect is superior. This should make a compelling selling argument with clients.
Financial position and risks
The financial position of the company is a concern, and rightfully so a major one,  that ESGFIRE can find at this point. Ekobot needs to swiftly secure additional financing to ensure the continued operations of the company. On a positive note, Ekobot announced on 15[th] of January 2024 that they had secured a short-term loan amounting to 3 million SEK. The loan is designed to secure the company's operational continuity until a more viable long-term financing solution can be finalized, anticipated during the first quarter of  ESGFIRE is of the opinion that Ekobot have a very financially strong minority owner in Navus Ventures (17,2 % ownership) which definitely could prove useful in the event of a future share issue. Ekobot is in a precarious financial situation and all investors should consider this before entering a position.  One possible solution to the financial issues other than a direct share issue could be either be by acquiring financing through sales of existing assets or by possibly entering structural transactions or strategic partnerships that will improve the financial situation of the company.

All investments inherently carry risks, and Ekobot is no exception. Regulatory shifts, technological challenges, and market competition are potential hurdles. However, Ekobot's proactive risk management strategies, coupled with its innovative solutions, equip it to navigate these challenges effectively.

Investment case and summary:
Ekobot have with comparatively small financial means been able to develop a highly competitive farming robot which in many aspects offer better features than their significantly more well-funded VC backed competitors. ESGFIRE thinks Ekobot gives investors the unique opportunity to, for a miniscule valuation, take a driver's seat in the future of farming robotics.  Investors should be aware of the weak financial position of the company. However, by applying the new market strategy of using distributors ESGFIRE thinks Ekobot may be able to reduce their overhead costs and on a medium-term outlook increase sales significantly. ESGFIRE is confident in the potential for Ekobot as our opinion is that Ekobot still hold a technological advantage in comparison to their competitors. With new CEO Jonas Eklind at the helm of Ekobot the company has a strong leader with a useful background which should be able to propel the company from the development stage and into profitable territory. The majority of Ekobot's non public competitors are valued between 50 to 100 times Ekobots market value despite the fact that they overall have robots with inferior performance compared to Ekobot. With this in mind it's clear that there is a discrepancy between value proposition and fair market value.   It is both a blessing and a curse that Ekobot is not listed in the US, where this type of company would probably have had a significantly higher valuation. Day to day trading in the share is unfortunately quite low, which means that larger volumes can provide a significant boost in both upward and downward directions and is a risk factor investors need to take into consideration.
ESGFIRE does not rule out the possible scenario that Ekobot might be subject for a corporate buy out from their VC backed non public competitors should the valuation remain at the current levels for a longer period of time. It could make sense for private actors to buy out Ekobots technology and use their technological advancements for their own advancements. It's very difficult to speculate what a buyout valuation would look like, but we think the majority of larger shareholders of Ekobot would not accept any bids below 100-200 million SEK. It should however be noted that this assumption is highly speculative and should not be used as a basis for an investment in Ekobot.

In conclusion, Ekobot is not just a company with promising financial returns but as a transformative force in the landscape of sustainable agriculture. For investors seeking both profitability and a positive impact on the environment, Ekobot stands as a compelling investment opportunity a testament to the potential of merging cutting-edge technology with environmental sustainability.

ESGFIRE is an investment company and research firm that focuses on ESG companies with either an environmentally friendly service or product. ESGFIRE has a performance record of over 1000 % returns since 2018.

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Group CEO: Filip Erhardt
Email: Filip@esgfire.com (%20Filip@esgfire.com)

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