South African Drone Startup Targets The US Agriculture Market

Written by Peter Pedroncelli

 

South African drone startup Aerobotics has revealed plans to expand their operations into the U.S. agriculture market.

The drone and data analytics firm has sent two executives to the U.S. to meet with farmers and stakeholders in the country, and they have hired a U.S.-based representative for the company, according to Ventureburn.

Aerobotics chief financial officer Tim Willis and chief operating officer Andrew Burdock left South Africa on Aug. 3 to meet with nut, citrus and wine farmers in California and Florida. The company plans to set up a U.S. sales office, with a local person already working for the startup in the last few weeks.

The data analytics platform uses drone technology and artificial intelligence to assist farmers with optimization of yields and cost-reduction through aerial data.

The platform makes use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to process satellite and drone imagery to deliver insights to farmers, specifically related to pest control, tracking every tree on a farm in order to detect problems early and guide farmers to the location of the threat.

Founded in 2014 by James Paterson and Benji Meltzer, Aerobotics has grown significantly in the last four years, serving clients in Peru, Uruguay, France, Spain, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Namibia and Kenya, thought 90 percent of the clients are in South Africa, AGfundernews reports.

The startup now employs over 30 staff, and has over 500 active clients across the 11 countries.

South African drone startup
Aerobotics uses drone and satellite imagery to assist farmers with their crops. Photo – AP – Alex Brandon

In July, the Cape Town-based startup secured a Series A funding round in the region of $2 million, according to Weetracker.

The funding was provided by South Africa’s Nedbank, through their tech-focused venture capital fund, with participation from South African venture capital firm 4Di Capital, agritech investor AgFunder, and U.S.-based AngelList.

This builds on the $600,000 funding round that the business received from 4Di Capital and Kenya’s Savannah Fund in 2017.

South African drone startup selected by Google

In December, Aerobotics was selected by Google to take part in the fifth class of the Google launchpad accelerator program, according to ITNewsAfrica.

The tech startup was chosen to take part in the six-month, equity-free mentorship program, which aims to help startups by leveraging the company’s latest technologies in an effort to scale their businesses through mentoring.

A total of 24 startups from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America were selected to take part in the program, which began at the end of January 2018 in San Francisco.

The South African startup was previously involved with drone technology applications in game reserves and the mining sector, but the decision was made to focus efforts exclusively on agriculture, resulting in growth and recognition.

Aerobotics clinched The Digital Insurer (TDI) European 2017 Startup Insurtech Award in September last year in recognition of the company’s positive work in the crop insurance market.

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