South African Drone Firm Plans Move To US With Eye On Agriculture Market Following $2M Investment

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

South African drone company Aerobotics has raised $2 million for a total of $4 million in funding, and plans to use the money to empower farmers and grow its U.S. market, according to ITNewsAfrica.

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The company has a new product in development with plans to launch in time for the 2019 U.S. growing season.

Two members of the executive team in South Africa have moved to California, Ventureburn reports.

Chief commercial officer Andrew Burdock and chief platform officer Stuart van der Veen are now based in Los Angeles, where Aerobotics have opened an office.

The company plans to have eight U.S. staff in by the end of 2019 in areas where there are high concentrations of tree and vine crops in order to target fruit and wine farms, according to ITWeb.

South African drone
South African drone firm Aerobotics plans growth in the U.S. market. Image – AP – Alex Brandon

The $2 million funding round was realized through a deal with Paper Plane Ventures, a Johannesburg-based ventural capital fund.

In July 2018, the Cape Town-based startup secured a Series A funding round of $2 million, according to Weetracker.

In 2017 the drone firm secured a R8 million seed-funding round from South African venture capital company 4Di Capital and the Savannah Fund in Kenya, according to Ventureburn.

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

South African drone firm launching new products

Aerobotics announced the imminent launch of an automated, accurate yield estimation tool for farm yield management. It plans to have the tech commercially available in the U.S. at the beginning of the 2019 growing season, according to Dronelife.

The new product will allow farmers to select a yield sample in their orchard, capture fruit counts and fruit size and generate a report on the size distribution and number of fruits, assisting farmers to make informed decisions regarding the harvesting of their crops.

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

In 2018 Aerobotics took part in the fifth class of the Google launchpad accelerator program, benefiting from a six-month, equity-free mentorship program, according to ITNewsAfrica.

The South African firm was previously involved with drone technology applications in game reserves and the mining sector, but decided to focus exclusively on agriculture.