Naspers announced on Wednesday a R100 million investment in AgriTech business Aerobotics, through its earlystage business funding initiative Naspers Foundry.
Aerobotics is a subscription-based artificial intelligence (AI) company that provides intelligent tools for the agricultural industry to manage its crops.
Aerobotics, founded by James Paterson and Benji Meltzer in 2014, is a leader in the application of artificial intelligence in agriculture. The insights Aerobotics provides to its clients include tree counts, the identification of missing trees, and the size and health of trees.
The company has progressed its technology to engineer fruit counts, and to provide data on fruit size and colour. Farmers use the intelligence to manage their farms, trees and fruit more efficiently.
“The intersection of agriculture and technology has always been my passion and it has been incredible to work with a talented team, and leading agricultural groups, to contribute towards the future of agriculture. We are proud to be building quality technology in South Africa and delivering it to customers around the world,” Paterson said.
“Our journey is only just beginning, but already Aerobotics has demonstrated success in our ability to collect and analyse tree and fruit-level information, which are critical to the agricultural industry. We have seen great support from commercial-scale farmers and, more recently, crop insurance companies in the US who require accurate tree-level information about their clients.
“We are excited to have Naspers as a partner, bringing proven skills in building global technology companies together with the capital required to continue building for, and with, the agricultural industry.”
The company believes its innovative Aero solutions are globally relevant to growers in all markets.
Its scouting app, Aeroview InField, is a new technological dynamic to help farmers assess crops. Enabling easier farm and task management, the app benchmarks advanced crop monitoring with clear visuals that are often overlooked when scouting with the naked eye. The app has been designed on the backbone of an existing app, Aeroview Scout. For more read: SA’s AgriTech Startup Aerobotics Eyes Expansion In Europe
Drone scouting allows farmers who own and fly drones to collect data when needed. The tool is used to control the drone and position it within a five-meter range of stressed trees to capture a 360-degree visual of each tree. Thereafter, the data is interpreted to identify problems without farmers having to walk into the orchard.
“Food security is of paramount importance in South Africa, and the Aerobotics platform provides a positive contribution towards helping to sustain it. This importance has been highlighted further in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with agriculture considered globally as critical infrastructure,” Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, CEO South Africa of Naspers, said.
“This young, all South African team, has produced a world-class technology solution in South Africa and has also successfully entered the US market where they are gaining momentum. This type of tech innovation addresses societal challenges, and is exactly the type of early-stage company that Naspers Foundry looks to back.”
The investment is pending approval by local authorities.
Naspers Foundry, which was announced at the end of 2018, is a R1,4 billion initiative aimed at strengthening the South African technology sector by providing funding to talented and ambitious technology founders and entrepreneurs. Last year, the initiative invested R30 million in online home cleaning services business, SweepSouth.
Naspers Foundry backs talented local technology founders building businesses that improve people’s daily lives and show great potential to scale.