Cape Town startup Aerobotics launches host of innovative agri-tech products

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Cape Town-based precision agriculture company Aerobotics has launched five new innovations it claims have never been seen before in the agriculture industry.

Founded in 2014 by James Paterson and Benji Meltzer, Aerobotics provides farmers around the world with pest and disease management systems for tree crop protection using drone and satellite data.

The startup, which raised its latest funding round earlier this year, has developed its own software – Aeroview – that empowers tree crop farmers to identify early stage problems in their orchards. Used in conjunction with a smartphone app, farmers are able to locate problem areas on a tree-by-tree basis.

Aerobotics has now released a host of new products, including a leaf-by-leaf Drone Scouting Application will give farmers access to artificial intelligence (AI) that detects the exact problems impacting their trees, quickly, accurately and without having to step foot onto the crop themselves.

“We have been working extremely hard over the past few years with growers and industry partners to create technology that will completely change how farmers manage their crops, identify stressed trees and spot individual pests and diseases without stepping foot on the farm,” said Paterson. “This kind of technology has been the stuff of agri-tech legend, but today we are making the Future of Farming a reality.”

Once the drones capture high resolution images of stressed trees, these images will be run through Aerobotics’ first-ever tree crop and vineyard pest and disease detection database. Using AI and machine learning, pests and disease will be identified, and the results then communicated via push notifications to the farmer. Additionally, the Aeroview system will now automatically generate scout routes for farmers using Aerobotics’ AI.

“Until now, the farmer has had to take time to visit each individual tree and rely on past experience and knowledge in the field to identify pests and disease,” said Aerobotics data science manager Michael Malahe. “Now, Aeroview has the technology to do all of this for the farmer. The amount of time, energy and money that farmers can save with Aerobotics’ new technology is impressive.”

Once the system has automatically detected problem trees that need further investigation and a scout route has been planned using AI, Aerobotics’ Drone Scouting Application will send the route to a drone.

The drone will take off and fly a custom-designed mission, locating trees which have been identified as experiencing stress. The drone will come down to approximately one metre above the tree to take a high-resolution image. This image will capture data at leaf-specific detail and be uploaded to Aerobotics’ pest and disease database.

“Aerobotics has been looking at how we can combine our technology and farming knowledge to help farmers streamline their operations and save time and money,” said Meltzer. “This has massive implications for the farming sector as early detection of these risks will enable early intervention, saving farmers costs, protecting crops and saving yields exposed to harmful pests and disease.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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