Israeli startup Taranis, which uses drones to closely monitor crops, announced July 21 that it has raised $30 million for further development of its AI-powered agricultural technology.
The fundraising was led by the venture capital arm of Singapore's Kuok Group and tech investment fund Vertex Growth that is backed by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Hitachi Ventures, and Micron Ventures also participated in the round. Taranis has raised $60 million to date.
Taranis has developed artificial intelligence that uses drones to capture high-definition images of crops, even insects on leaves, from the air, detecting risk factors such as water damage or insect infestations and thus facilitating more informed decisions about cultivation. The AI system is said to analyze the images and aggregate data from smart irrigation systems, sensors and satellite images.
According to Taranis, its system can cover an area of about 400,000 square meters in six minutes. The Kuok Group is the company's first client in Asia.
In an interview with Calcalist, Taranis co-founder and CEO Ofir Schlam said “We started raising the money at the end of February and the most serious talks were held in March at the height of the coronavirus crisis. We got a lot of offers from prominent investors but eventually chose to stick with Vertex."
"The U.S. went into shock from mid-March through early April, but then we went back to work and the farmers went back to work. Our industry is one of the few that benefited from the crisis,” said Schlam, a former software developer for an elite IDF intelligence unit.
“We’ve been tracking Taranis for two years and we haven’t seen anyone who could take high-resolution pictures while on the move,” said Hock Chuan Tam, managing director of Vertex Growth. “They have solved that technical problem, allowing them to scout a field very quickly. That’s the magic.”
“With Taranis’ support, growers, retailers, cooperatives, and crop consultants can detect, analyze, and treat crop issues at their earliest signs, taking preventive measures with unprecedented precision and gaining a higher degree of control over their crop yield than ever before.”
Taranis, which is said to have nearly 20,000 customers worldwide, plans to use the capital to monitor more types of crops as it expands into Asia. The company's technology is currently used for monitoring sugar cane, cotton, corn and soybean fields among others.