Goats, Chickens and AI, Oh My: What it’s Like to Work at Carbon Robotics

The Seattle agriculture tech company is growing — here’s a look inside the culture of this featured company of the month.

Written by Taylor Rose
Published on Feb. 15, 2024
Goats, Chickens and AI, Oh My: What it’s Like to Work at Carbon Robotics
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It’s not uncommon for many tech companies to allow dogs in the office, but for Carbon Robotics, the pet guests expand beyond dogs and have an overlap with its product offering — both are usually found on a farm. 

“I don’t know another company that allows chickens, ducks, sheep, goats and pigs in the office,” said Frontend Software Engineer Ansel Santosa in a Built In employee review of Carbon Robotics.

Santosa has a farm sanctuary and notes that he is encouraged to bring along any of his barnyard pets who want to say “hi.”

“It’s fun and always good bonding,” said Santosa. “Chatting around the water cooler is nowhere as cool as chatting around the office piglet.”

Chatting around the water cooler is nowhere as cool as chatting around the office piglet.”
 

Carbon Robotics is familiar with farms. The agriculture technology company started in 2018 after founder and CEO Paul Mikesell saw how AI could be used to weed crops faster than farm workers. 

“We’re a tight-knit team that encourages creativity across all departments,” Mikesell told Built In. “Through this continued innovation and creative freedom, we’re able to create industry-leading agricultural tools that are positively impacting farmers’ daily operations.”

Mikesell made the jump into digital agriculture from a role as director of infrastructure engineering at Uber — and before that he was the founder of a data platform that focuses on high-volume storage, called Isilon Systems. 

His decision to join agtech was warranted: The industry of digital agriculture is growing rapidly, valued at at $22 billion in value in 2023 with projections to hit $36 billion by 2028, according to a report published by MarketsandMarkets. 

The primary value of digital agriculture is the vast amount of data that can be gathered from farmers regarding their crops, yields and soil health. Carbon Robotics entered the digital agriculture space with an AI-powered weeding tool called the LaserWeeder, which finds weeds and uses small precision lasers to burn them away. Mikesell told NBC News that each of the LaserWeeders has the computing power of 24 Teslas and can gather valuable data from the farm. 

“Since coming on board, I have witnessed firsthand the company’s unwavering dedication to supporting farmers and understanding their needs while giving employees the freedom to experiment with different areas of work that suit their interests,” Software Engineering Manager Simon Cochrane told Built In. “The company offers a breadth of exposure to several aspects of the business, including high-tech, manufacturing, sales and marketing.” 

Mikesell leveraged his background in deep learning and computer vision to build the first  LaserWeeder prototype using a handcart, laser and small camera. Today, the company has hinted at new products in the works. According to GeekWire, Carbon Robotics has raised $80 million in total funding.

“I understand the level of innovation required to develop and market a new technology,” said Mikesell. “From a leadership standpoint, I give people space to make mistakes and learn from them. My favorite motto is, ‘Do what you say you’re going to do.’ With this level of transparency and accountability, I have instilled trust within my team.”

 

THE PERKS OF WORKING AT CARBON ROBOTICS

  • Documented equal-pay policy
  • Company equity
  • Relocation assistance
  • Promote from within


 

“Our environment is ultimately our strength, though. It sounds almost weird to say, but we foster a workplace where it’s OK to fail,” VP of Program Management Jane Vail told Built In. “When a person isn’t always constrained by having to be right or perfect, the level and pace of innovation goes through the roof.” 

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Shutterstock and listed companies.

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