Greetings from Washington, D.C., where this afternoon I'll be interviewing Marc Andreessen about everything from AI to immigration policy to why he stopped tweeting (the last of which made my prep much more laborious). Some quick notes to kick us off, as I spent most of yesterday in transit with intermittent WiFi...
Abundant Robotics, a Hayward, Calif.-based developer of apple-picking robots, has raised $10 million in new VC funding. GV led the round, and was joined by BayWA, Tellus Partners and return backers Yamaha Motor Co., KPCB Edge and Comet Labs. http://tcrn.ch/2qv5A2K
- Why it's the BFD: This isn't today's largest deal, let alone even its largest venture capital deal (namely because it's not based in Asia, which is now regularly atop that double-edged leaderboard). But it is part of a burgeoning wave of farm automation companies that has a little bit of something for everyone to love or hate. It plays to the "tech advancement doesn't cost macro jobs" crowd, because it's so analogous to the tractor. It causes obvious concerns among those who feel exactly the opposite, as there are not as many urban manufacturing jobs anymore to suck up low-skilled rural labor. And then there are the broader policy issues of domestic immigration (this could cut down on demand at a time when supply is threatened by D.C.) and global food production (where long-term shortfall projections are worrisome).
- Bottom line: "Years of research on automating the harvest of apples and similar crops, such as pears, had previously come to naught because of the challenges of getting machines to identify fruit reliably and handle it gently enough, he says. But improvements in computing power, vision algorithms, and robotics have made striking new types of automation possible in a variety of industries, agriculture among them." ― Tom Simonite
• Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR) has agreed to acquire Yummly, a Redwood City, Calif.-based provider of personalized reciples and cooking resources. No financial terms were disclosed. Yummly had raised around $21 million in VC funding from firms like Bauer Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Physic Ventures, Unilever, Harrison Metal and First Round Capital. http://bit.ly/2q1XwGP
• Belgium has sold a quarter of its 10.3% stake in BNP Paribas (Paris: BNPP) for around €2 billion. http://reut.rs/2pcbQbE
• First Horizon National Corp. (NYSE: FHN) has agreed to acquire Capital Bank Financial Corp. (Nasdaq: CBF) for $2.2 billion, or $40.83 per share (3% premium to yesterday's closing price). http://reut.rs/2pbXmZp
• Verizon (NYSE: VZ) has agreed to sell its private cloud business to IBM (NYSE: IBM). No financial terms were disclosed. http://zd.net/2pBtvw3