SA agri-tech startup Aerobotics raises $5.5m from Naspers Foundry

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South African agri-tech startup Aerobotics has raised ZAR100 million (US$5.5 million) in funding from Naspers Foundry to help it continue on a growth trajectory that has taken its solution into the United States (US).

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.

It is just over a year since the company expanded its Series A funding round to US$4 million after securing an additional US$2 million investment from Paper Plane Ventures, and it has now approximately doubled its total raised funding with a ZAR100 million (US$5.5 million) investment from Naspers Foundry. 

Naspers, one of the largest technology investors in the world, launched Naspers Foundry, a ZAR1.4 billion (US$96 million) fund to help South African tech entrepreneurs grow their startups, in October 2018, and announced its first deal, a ZAR30 million (US$2.1 million) investment in SweepSouth, in June of last year. Aerobotics is its second investee, though the deal remains subject to the approval of local authorities.

“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,” said Aerobotics chief executive officer (CEO) James Paterson.

“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.”

Phuthi Mahanyele-Dabengwa, South Africa CEO at Naspers, said food security was of paramount importance, and the Aerobotics platform provided 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,” she 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.”

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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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