If Tertill, the garden-weeding robot made by a Billerica startup of the same name, didn’t already remind you of the Roomba vacuum, the company’s latest hire should leave no doubt about its designs on the home automation industry.
Tertill said Tuesday that it had hired as its chairman and chief executive Helen Greiner, who was co-founder and top executive at Roomba maker iRobot of Bedford. She later founded the drone maker CyPhy Works, before leaving that role to work for the US Army as an expert on robotics, autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence.
At Tertill, Greiner is reuniting with Joe Jones, who was instrumental in creating the Roomba and later created the Tertill. Grenier said she had been independently looking for opportunities for outdoor home robots and a conversation with Tertill executives wound up convincing her to join the company.
“It’s a really under-served space from a technology point of view, and that’s a great place to be as a startup,” she said. Greiner succeeds Linda Ystueta, who becomes Tertill’s chief operating officer.
The solar-powered, weatherproof Tertill uses a small trimmer to cut weeds as they emerge while tilling the soil with its wheels to prevent unwanted plants from sprouting and taking root. It sells for about $350.
Many companies have their eyes on doing for the outdoors what Roomba and its competitors have done to the interiors of their customers’ homes. IRobot is working on a robotic lawnmower, and several other companies have launched them — including Husqvarna, which Greiner said has made an early-stage investment of $1 million in Tertill.
Greiner, who will also take over as chairwoman of the company’s board, said she’s interested in other ideas for outdoor robotic applications, such as collecting leaves or clearing snow. But for now, she said she’d be focused on building a robust business to support a product that has shown some clear consumer interest.