SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s agri-tech business, Aerobic has acquired R100 million (US$5.5 million) in funding from Naspers Foundry to expand its operation.

Aerobic is a subscription-based artificial intelligence (AI) company that provides intelligent tools for the agricultural industry to manage its crops.

Naspers, one of the largest technology investors in the world, launched Naspers Foundry, a R1.4 billion (US$96 million) fund to help South African tech entrepreneurs grow their startups.

Aerobotics is its second investee, though the deal remains subject to the approval of local authorities, reports Disrupt Africa.

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, optimising crop performance.

It provides its clients with insights such as tree counts, the identification of missing trees, and the size and health of trees among others.

The company has progressed its technology to engineer fruit counts, and to provide data on fruit size and colour.

Aerobotics delivers the insights through their proprietary Aeroview platform and Aeroview InField mobile app.

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

Having operations in the US, Paterson added, “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,” he stated.

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 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,” she added.

It is just over a year since Aerobotics expanded its Series A funding round to US$4 million after securing an additional US$2 million investment from Paper Plane Ventures.

Prior to that it had launched a batch of new products and secured US$2 million as part of its Series A round.

It has now more than doubled its total raised funding with a R100 million (US$5.5 million) investment from Naspers Foundry.