We’re excited to announce that the first of August marks a milestone in our Tech Development history; we are now able to serve the 170k hectares of vineyards on our doorstep in the Western Cape. We’re a South African AgTech company which has built a smart scouting platform to help Farmers identify pests and diseases in the tree crop space early-on over the past 4 years. Farmers are seeing the value in being able to find early stage problems, with 40% of the South African macadamia nut industry (the largest macadamia export market in the world) and 20% of the country’s citrus Growers using our software.
Farming is a risky business with pests and disease often reducing a Farmers’ yields. At Aerobotics, we’ve developed a system that tracks every tree on the farm, detecting problems early, and guiding Farmers to the location of the threat. Our platform combines weekly satellite data, automated drone scouting and infield scouting data to identify and track every tree on the farm. Once we’ve captured the drone images, we then use machine learning to automatically detect pest and disease problems and alert the Farmer to those locations to ground truth the data and diagnose specific problems. By bringing Farmer validation into the loop, Aerobotics gets smarter all the time, which benefits all the Growers on our platform.
Our CEO, James Paterson says, “Having worked with numerous tree crop farmers, we recognise the potential of our solution for the world’s winemakers and citrus farmers.” The day kicked off at Boschkloof Wine Estate with wine upon arrival, canapes and a presentation by James and Andrew Burdock, Aerobotics COO. Farmers were able to ask questions and find out how the product could help them identify risky areas in their vineyards. The highlight of the afternoon for all involved, was a live drone demonstration. Farmers and members of the media were impressed by the drone ascending to its altitude of 80m and capturing footage of the Boschkloof Wine Estate in less than 20 minutes, all of which will be turned into data points by the end of the week!
Nedbank worked with us to make sure the day was a success. John Hudson, Head of Agriculture for Business Banking at Nedbank, explained that “the Bank’s partnership with Aerobotics is evolving over time as it moves from macadamia nuts, to citrus farms and now to vineyards.” Nedbank is “excited about the access to qualitative data which Aerobotics can provide the Bank as this is really important and of great value” noted John. We’re working to aggregate data for everyone in the agricultural value chain to help make better financial decisions. “Turning a simple image into hundreds of data points is our forte” noted Tim Willis, Aerobotics CFO.
In two weeks time, we will be launching our first US market at the Florida Citrus Expo in Fort Myers. Andrew explains that “the US market is a key one for Aerobotics as we need to prove that our product is the best pest and disease management tool for some of the largest citrus Growers in the world.” The Florida citrus industry has been devastated by the Huanglongbing (HLB or citrus greening) bacteria over the past few years. Citrus greening is a bacteria which is spread by a tiny insect called the Asian Citrus Psyllid. The disease turns fruit bitter and eventually kills the tree. There is no cure. We will be helping Florida Growers identify these problems in their orchards and count impacted trees.
The Aerobotics Team have spent a lot of time in the USA this year as we were one of 24 companies selected for the Google Developers Launchpad accelerator programme. Benji Meltzer, CTO at Aerobotics, commented that “the programme assisted us in improving our machine learning algorithms which detect individual trees and now vines!” From Stellenbosch to Fort Myers, we’re working with Farmers to solve their problems and support them on one of their biggest everyday headaches - pest and disease management.