Aerobotics, a Cape Town-based company that pairs drone and satellite imagery with artificial intelligence to help farmers improve their yields, has announced it has expanded a its Series-A funding round from US$2-million to $4-million (about R57-million).
The funding round expansion came through a deal with Paper Plane Ventures and brings Aerobotics total funding to $4.6-million.
Aerobotics co-founder and CEO James Paterson said the additional funding will be used to expand the company’s growth in South Africa, the US and elsewhere.
Focused specifically on orchards, Aerobotics can analyse individual trees, and measure their health and whether anything is affecting them, advising farmers about potential problems and how to fix them.
The business, which enjoys the backing of Nedbank, has plans to expand beyond South Africa and has already set up teams in the US states of Florida and California.
Founded by Paterson and his business partner Benji Meltzer (who serves as chief technology officer), Aerobotics’ software, Aeroview, allows tree-crop farmers to identify early-stage problems in their orchards. Used in conjunction with the Aerobotics’ Aeroview Scout App on their smartphone, farmers are able to locate problem areas on a tree-by-tree basis.
The company said on Friday that it is launching what it calls “the first natural step” to automated, accurate yield estimation with a new tool for farm yield management.
“Currently in development, the yield management tool that is being built within the Aeroview app allows farmers to select a yield sample within their orchard, capture fruit counts and fruit size and get a report on the size distribution and number of fruits,” it said.
“This yield management tool helps farmers make informed decisions on how much fruit to thin during the early stages of the season to optimise their yield when it is time to harvest. This technology will be commercially available in the US at the beginning of the 2019 growing season.”
At the same time, Lindsay Griffin has joined the company as head of business enablement. Griffin joins Aerobotics from Coast2Coast Capital where she was an investment associate focused on capital raising and investments in the healthcare and consumer products sectors in South Africa, Europe and Australia.
“At Aerobotics, Lindsay will be focused on streamlining the corporate finance structure and enabling the business to scale efficiently at its current rapid pace.”
Aerobotics also announced that two members of its executive team are moving to California to grow the company’s US operations. Chief commercial officer Andrew Burdock and chief platform officer Stuart van der Veen will be based in Los Angeles, where Aerobotics is set to launch its offices in the second quarter of 2019.
The company currently has two business development managers in the US and is working with 10 000 acres of crops there. The US-based staff is expected to grow to eight by the end of 2019 and will be based around the country where there are high concentrations of tree and vine crops. — (c) 2019 NewsCentral Media