Robot gardening startup, Tertill, names Helen Greiner CEO

Helen Greiner

We don’t often cover personnel moves, but this one is too important to pass up. Helen Greiner today was named CEO and Chairman of Tertill Corporation, which was formerly known as Franklin Robotics. The North Billerica, Mass.-based startup develops the Tertill weeding robot for vegetable and flower gardens.

Of course, Greiner co-founded iRobot in 1990, alongside Colin Angle and Rodney Brooks, and founded drone company CyPhy Works in 2008. She most recently served as an advisor to the U.S. Army.

Tertill was founded in 2015 by Rory MacKean, John Chase, and Joe Jones. The company first showcased its robot at our RoboBusiness 2016 startup competition and again at our 2017 CES Robotics Conference. Tertill is a solar-powered weeding robot that uses two approaches to kill weeds. First, its wheels churn up the top layer of soil in attempt to keep weeds from spouting. If any weeds do sprout, Tertill chops them down with its onboard string trimmer.

Often referred to as “the Roomba for gardening,” the company is, apparently, taking that mantra to heart. Not only is Greiner now part of Tertill, Jones invented the initial proof of concept for what eventually became iRobot’s Roomba. He first came up with the idea in 1988 while researching small robots at the MIT AI Lab (now MIT CSAIL). He later brought the idea with him when he was hired by iRobot in February 1992. iRobot didn’t focus on robot vacuums until about 1999, releasing its first Roomba in 2002.

Helen Greiner, CEO and Chairman, Tertill Corporation

“Helen and I worked together at iRobot. While I was developing Roomba technology, I observed Helen take on the other things needed to make iRobot successful including hiring top people, raising money, and getting the word out about Roomba,” said Jones. “Helen’s contributions led the iRobot Roomba to where it stands and they will do the same for Tertill.”

According to CrunchBase, Tertill has raised $1 million to date. This is a result of Husqvarna Group acquiring a 25 percent of the company in April 2018. Greiner was Chairman and President of iRobot from its startup phase all the way through its initial public offering (IPO) in 2005. Greiner led iRobot’s financing efforts at the time, raising $35 million in venture capital for the $75 million IPO.

While Tertill can’t talk about its future roadmap, clearly Greiner could play a pivotal role in helping the company scale its outdoor robotics play.

“As a home gardener, I have witnessed firsthand Tertill’s weed-controlling abilities, and I’m thrilled to lead the company’s existing world-class team,” said Greiner, who told TechCrunch she purchased one of the first Tertill robots via KickStarter. “I look forward to collaborating with the Tertill team to accelerate the brand’s growth and give gardeners better tools for success. The iRobot Roomba became a household name and I am confident that Tertill will follow.”

We’re hoping to have Greiner on The Robot Report Podcast soon, so stay tuned.

Tertill weeding robot

Tertill weeding robot

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