Aerobotics gets additional R29m funding

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From left: Aerobotics CTO Benji Meltzer, CEO James Paterson, chief commercial officer Andrew Burdock and COO Tim Willis.
From left: Aerobotics CTO Benji Meltzer, CEO James Paterson, chief commercial officer Andrew Burdock and COO Tim Willis.

Local agritech start-up Aerobotics is setting up an online drone marketplace after receiving $2 million (R29 million) funding from local venture capital firm Paper Plane Ventures.

The Cape Town-headquartered start-up processes data from drone and satellite imagery through its proprietary artificial intelligence platform, to discover and analyse problems, pests and diseases affecting trees or vines on farms.

The latest funding follows a $2 million series A funding round last year, led by Nedbank and joined by US-based Agfunder and US angel investor Joe Caruso, among others.

The company, co-founded by James Paterson (CEO) and Benji Meltzer (CTO) in 2014, says it will invest its funding in various new projects, including its US expansion, an online drone marketplace and infrastructure.

"We are proud to have made the announcement about expanding our Series A funding round to $4 million," says 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 SA, the US and around the world, and increase our ability of helping farmers and partners in the agriculture industry."

The company is setting up an online drone marketplace where clients can source drone services for various industries beyond agricultural.

"We get daily requests from clients and the general public for drone-related work. The drone marketplace is a great tool to help our drone partners expand their networks and provide various services to other sectors," says Jan-Dirk Brak, manager of strategic projects and initiatives at Aerobotics.

Aerobotics recently expanded to the US and has two business development managers on the ground in Los Angeles working with 10 000 acres of crops.

The company says its US-based staff is expected to grow to eight by the end of 2019 and will be based around areas where there are high concentrations of tree and vine crops.

"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," says chief commercial officer Andrew Burdock.

In addition, Aerobotics says it will soon launch an online farm yield management platform to help farmers collect more accurate data in-field.

"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 of distribution and number of fruits.

"Farmers traditionally have faced challenges recording the data they capture in the field when scouting and analysing yield samples," says Aerobotics head of product Nasreen Patel.

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