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South African Agri-tech Startup, Aerobotics Raises Further $2m Funding

South African agri-tech startup Aerobotics has expanded its Series A funding round to US$4 million after securing an additional US$2 million from Paper Plane Ventures to assist its expansion efforts.

Founded in Cape Town in 2014, Aerobotics uses aerial imagery from drones and satellites, and blends them with machine learning algorithms to provide early problem detection services to tree and wine farmers and optimise crop performance.

The startup’s cloud-based application Aeroview provides farmers with insights, scout mapping and other tools to mitigate damage to tree and vine crops from pest and disease.

Aerobotics, which launched a batch of new products late last year, secured US$2 million as part of its Series A round last July, and has now doubled that after raising funding from Paper Plane Ventures. The latest capital injection – announced at the launch of its new offices in the Waterkant area of Cape Town – takes the startup’s total raised funding to US$4.6 million after its first round in 2017, and will assist with its international expansion efforts.

“We are proud to have made the announcement about expanding our Series A funding round to US$4 million at the launch of our new offices in Waterkant,” said Aerobotics co-founder and chief executive officer (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 also used the event to announce 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. The 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, focused on streamlining its corporate finance structure and enabling the business to scale efficiently at its current rapid pace. Meanwhile, two members of its 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.

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