The global agriculture industry is under a tremendous amount of strain as it tries to produce enough food to nourish the world’s growing population. Studies have made it clear that current methods of food production won’t be sustainable for much longer. That has led companies around the world to pursue smart farming methods that produce more crops with fewer resources.
Some approaches favor technologies like hydroponics and vertical farming to decrease the amount of land that’s needed to produce crops. Others are applying cutting-edge technology to current agriculture practices to make them more efficient.
A South African startup called Aerobotics uses the latter method. It equips farmers with artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to help them get more yield from their plants with each harvest. Now, the startup has raised $17 million as part of an oversubscribed Series B round, TechCrunch reports.
Old Macdonald Had AI
Aerobotics was founded in 2014 with the goal of making farming better by integrating technology into existing systems. AI, drones, and various robots are just a few of the things it uses to do so.
According to TechCrunch, Aerobotics’ system is able to identify the health of various crops, track pests and diseases, and provide analytics for better yield management. For instance, it may collect images of a fruit tree orchard early in the growing season. After analyzing that data, Aerobotics provides farmers with an estimated yield and offers a date range for an ideal harvest.
Currently, the startup is focused on fruit and tree farms. It claims to have analyzed more than 81 million trees in its seven-year lifespan. That’s an impressive figure and one that will only keep growing over time.
Aerobotics has quickly expanded out of South Africa and now has additional offices in the U.S., Australia, and Portugal. It operates in a total of 18 countries. Understandably, the U.S. is Aerobotics’ primary market.
The startup has two provisional patents in the U.S., TechCrunch notes. One is for a system that estimates the age of a tree while the other is used to predict yield.
Although Aerobotics has had an impressive run to this point, the startup doesn’t plan to slow down. It will use its $17 million in new funding to continue developing its technology.
CEO James Paterson (no, not that James Patterson) said in a statement, “We’re committed to providing intelligent tools to optimize automation, minimize inputs, and maximize production. We look forward to further co-developing our products with the agricultural industry leaders.”
Leading the way in Aerobotics’ latest round is Naspers, the largest consumer internet company in South Africa. The tech giant supplied $5.6 million. Meanwhile, firms like Cathay AfricInvest Innovation, FMO: Entrepreneurial Development Bank, and Platform Investment Partners also took part in the round.
It will be interesting to see how Aerobotics’ system evolves in the coming years. With plenty of funding and excitement around its brand, the startup can make a big impact in the smart agriculture space. Catching on in the U.S. will be a major part of its success.