Problem: The agricultural industry in South Africa is traditionally human labor-intensive and unpredictable when it comes to the environment and threats like droughts, pests, and diseases.
In order to measure the success of crops, farmers wait until the end of the growing season and have limited means to predict the growth potential, performance, and longevity of a crop.
Agricultural production, related to food security, can be easily threatened by other species ranging from viruses and bacteria to larger insects and birds. When the detection of these pests and diseases is delayed, the consequences can be costly.
The growing cost of labor, low accuracy of problem detection and identification, and poor documentation contribute to this problem.
All of these factors have a negative impact on yield and its quality, and further on food security which has been pressured by current irreversible trends of increasing urbanization and population growth in the country.
Solution: Technology provides more options for growers to address these challenges.
Aerobotics’ innovative and successful solution combines artificial intelligence and drone technology to detect tree stress and allow growers to prevent cost and time wastage, and losses in revenue.
Goals and Objectives: This solution provides intelligent tools for agricultural production and a green economy, with objectives of maximized yield, optimized crop performance, minimized food reduction at an early stage, and cost-efficiency. It aims for the achievement of SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).
Implementation: Aerobotics was founded in 2014 by two South African entrepreneurs, James Paterson (CEO) and Benji Meltzer (CTO), who both have backgrounds in Mechatronics Engineering. Aerobotics uses aerial imagery from satellites and drones, data analysis, machine learning algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) in the agricultural industry to help growers identify pests and disease at an early stage, manage crop health, and predict yields. Their technology has progressed towards engineering fruit counts and providing data on fruit size and color. Since its inception in 2014, Aerobotics has serviced customers in 18 countries in the United States, South Africa, Australia, and South America.
How it works: Tree Insights
A customer (tree crop or vineyard farmer) orders a drone flight through Aerobotics.
Then, an accredited drone pilot flies the farm, where a multispectral camera attached to the drone captures high-resolution imagery.
This imagery is processed by Aerobotics’ proprietary software to provide farmers with per-tree and zone insights that include Tree Counts, Missing Trees, Health, Area, and Volume.
Based on their tree insights, growers can create scout routes with geo-referenced markers for areas that need to be investigated. Scouts can follow the route on the Aerobotics mobile scouting app, Aeroview InField, and leave notes and take pictures as they go.
Growers and their teams can download insights from their drone flights and scout reports to share with their teams, make data-driven decisions in the field, and optimize their operations and crops.
How it works: Citrus Fruit Insights
Citrus Fruit insights give growers, packers, and marketers accurate reports on citrus fruit count, sizes, and color ahead of the harvest period.
This intelligent tool can inform customers on yield management interventions (e.g. fruit thinning) to ensure an optimal harvest; and help customers to plan better for the end of the season when it comes to labor, resource planning, and marketing decisions.
Testimonials from customers
“Aerobotics has become an incredibly important tool for us for both tree management & yield estimations. The tree stats are accurate and insightful, and their new Citrus Yield Estimation service has proven very accurate, particularly around fruit sizing. I’d recommend them any day of the week!”
- Kobus van Staden | Director for Soleil Citrus Group (South Africa)
$12.00 / acre for single flight tree insights
$30.00 / acre for a seasonal tree insights package
$36.00 / acre for citrus fruit insights package
Minimum of 50 hectares per drone survey
Trees to be a minimum of 50 cm canopy size and 50 cm height
Achievements: Aerobotics has won several innovation awards since it was launched, including one of the top innovators of the World Bank 2020 Innovation Challenge for Food Security and Agriculture Risk Financing in Southern Africa; the Macron Africa Most Innovative African Startup Award. Aerobotics has raised about US$2 million in a Series A round from South African Nedbank Venture Capital, US Ag-Tech Venture Capital Fund, AgFunder, US-based AngelList, and South African-based 4Di Capital to fund the further development of its software and market expansions. Aerobotics has subsequently gone onto raise growth rounds from Platform Investment Partners and Napers Foundry. This agri-tech solution can be easily replicated in any other countries as long as the cost-efficiency and internet broadband is in place.
Contacts: Speak with an Aerobotics Customer Team member: