SA based company Aerobotics is leveraging drones and machine learning to help large scale farmers monitor their farms. Their technology enables farmers to spot troubled plants individually (those with pests and diseases), as opposed to the most commonly used satellite imagery, which only shows issues on large swaths of land. The company, with its operations in Florida USA, is currently servicing 11 countries; USA, UK, Spain and Australia, with the bulk of their clientele being in South Africa. Aerobotics provided TechMoran with insights into their company and its pioneering technology, as well as its plans moving forward.
Tell us about yourselves; your team, your educational and professional backgrounds, and your journey with Aerobotics so far
Aerobotics is a Cape Town based startup. We are an artificial intelligence company with our roots in agriculture. Our co-founders are James Paterson and Benji Meltzer. James was brought up on a fruit farm, where he tinkered and built technology for his father and farmers like him. With degrees in mechatronics engineering from UCT and aeronautics and astronautics from MIT, James is still tinkering and building solutions for farmers, just on a much larger scale. Benji also has a degree in mechatronics engineering from UCT and a masters degree in neurotechnology from the Imperial College in London. They founded Aerobotics four years ago, and the company is now helping farmers in 11 countries around the world.
How would you best describe Aerobotics briefly, what does it do?
Aerobotics is an artificial intelligence company with its roots in agriculture. Specifically, it is leading the precision agriculture industry with its technology that helps farmers identify pests and diseases down to the individual tree level, so farmers can take corrective action before the pest or disease spreads in the farm.
What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start this company?
While there are some companies that use satellite data to spot large swaths of the farm that are under stress, we wanted to create solutions that would help farmers identify stress on a farm down to the individual tree, so farmers could take action before it spreads and harms yield. No other company in the world is helping farmers the way we are with early pest and disease detection.
Who is your target market?
Aerobotics works directly with tree and vine farm growers. We also can work with agriculture industry partners.
How does your company make money?
Aerobotics uses a subscription model, which is charged per hectare and per month. We find that being able to identify a pest or disease in its early stages saves farmers money and increases their yields to the point where our technology pays for itself.
Who would you say is your major competition in this space at the moment?
Truly, there is no other company in the world that has the kind of technology for tree and vine farmers that we have. And no other company in the world that makes its products as easy to use for the grower as we do.
What is your vision for the company in the next 5 years? What is your plan for expansion? Any new products coming soon?
Aerobotics has aggressive expansions plans, particularly in the United States where we have recently launched and brought on sales managers. We just launched five major new innovations that have never before been seen in the precision agriculture industry. Aerobotics launched the world’s first ever pest and disease database, automated scouting maps for growers and drone scouting, where drones will get fed scouting maps and automatically fly to each individual stressed tree down to one metre, capture a high resolution image and detect the exact pest or disease that is causing that tree to experience stress. Aerobotics’ Aeroview app will then notify the farmer of the issue via push notification on their phone.
At the moment, how do you measure your own success?
What are your metrics? Aerobotics does everything with the farmer in mind, whether that is creating technology or holding events. Everything we do is to benefit the farmer. Aerobotics is in an aggressive growth phase and measures success by rapidly growing the amount of farmers we are able to help around the world.
What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs?
Aerobotics was founded by two people who grew up on and around farms. Farming is at the core of our mission. Anybody looking to be successful in business has to make sure that their business’s mission aligns closely with what is in their heart. The best results will come from efforts that would be made whether or not there was a financial incentive.