On Wednesday, 27 February, 2019, Aerobotics announced that it expanded its Series a funding round from $2 million to $4 million. The funding round expansion came through a signed deal with Paper Plane Ventures and brings Aerobotics total funding to $4.6 million. The funding round expansion and three other announcements were made at Aerobotics’ new office launch event.
Aerobotics’ new headquarters are based in Waterkant in Cape Town’s central business district. Those that attended the launch event made up a diverse group of people from the Aerobotics network, including Aerobotics staff, family members, clients, partners, investors and media.
“We are proud to have made the announcement about expanding our Series a funding round to $4 million at the launch of our new offices in Waterkant,” said Aerobotics Co-Founder and CEO James Paterson. “We are grateful that Paper Plane Ventures has put their faith and capital in our company, which we will use to expand our growth in South Africa, the United States and around the world and increase our ability of helping farmers and partners in the agriculture industry.”
Aerobotics announced that it is launching 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.
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 United States at the beginning of the 2019 growing season.
“Farmers traditionally have faced challenges recording the data they capture in the field when scouting and analysing yield samples,” said Aerobotics Head of Product Nasreen Patel. “We believe this new field management technology that is being built right into Aeroview will empower farmers to collect more accurate data in-field and make more informed decisions on thinning their fruit and, ultimately, optimising their yield.”
Aerobotics also announced that Lindsay Griffin has joined the company as Head of Business Enablement. Lindsay, a Chartered Accountant, 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. Before Coast2Coast, Lindsay was at Investec on the corporate finance team, where she worked on a diverse portfolio of large, listed corporates in South Africa.
At Aerobotics, Lindsay will be focused on streamlining the corporate finance structure and enabling the business to scale efficiently at its current rapid pace. Additionally, Lindsay will manage people and places within the business and compliment Aerobotics’ legal and financial operations.
“I am excited about joining Aerobotics and playing a key role in ensuring that the company’s growth continues,” said Griffin. “While Aerobotics has achieved a lot of success over the last few years, I think people should expect even bigger things to come in the near and long term.”
Additionally, Aerobotics announced that two members of the Executive Team are moving to California to grow the company’s business development around the United States. 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.
Aerobotics currently has two business development managers on the ground in the United States and is working with 10,000 acres of crops. 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.
“Stuart and I are excited to make the move to the United States and expand on the success we have already achieved there,” said Burdock. “By growing our physical presence, we are confident we will be able to bring our leading technology to farmers and partners in the agriculture industry in a way that helps them meet the immediate and long-term challenges on their farms.”
During the launch event, Wesgro CEO Tim Harris made remarks about Aerobotics and the importance of keeping its headquarters in Cape Town. Harris spoke about Cape Town tech ecosystem being the largest on the continent. With 450 tech firms employing between 40,000 and 50,000 people. The size of the city’s working tech population is double that of Lagos and Nairobi combined.
“Cape Town has the status of the leading tech hub on the continent and is the ideal growth market for startups like Aerobotics,” said Harris. “Aerobotics has managed to merge the Western Cape’s traditional agricultural industry with tech initiatives and is creating new opportunities by tapping into local talent and bringing global talent to South Africa.”
Aerobotics processes data from drone and satellite imagery through its proprietary artificial intelligence software to discover and analyse problems, pests and diseases affecting individual trees or vines on a farm. In addition to health, the software also measures size, height and canopy volume. This type of highly accurate data empowers farmers to make better decisions in the field, so they can increase their yield and produce a more balanced crop.
Images from the Aerobotics office launch event can be found here.
Cape Town start-up, Aerobotics, provides farmers around the world with world-leading pest and disease management systems for tree crop protection using artificial intelligence and drone and satellite data. The company was co-founded by James Paterson (CEO) and Benji Meltzer (CTO) in 2014.
Farming is a risky business with pests and disease often reducing a farmer’s yields. Aerobotics’ software, Aeroview, empowers 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.
Achieving success for more than 22 million trees to-date, Aerobotics is setting the standard for tree crop analytics globally and innovating the agricultural processes as we know them.