Israeli startup Taranis is ready to bring drones and AI to Asia’s agritech scene after raising USD 30 million in a Series C round led by Vertex Growth and Orion Fund, a fund backed by the Southeast Asian conglomerate Kuok Group and managed by K3 Ventures.
New investors Hitachi Ventures, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital, Micron Ventures, UMC Capital, La Maison, Mindset Ventures, iAngels, and Gal Yarden also participated in the round. Existing investors Vertex Ventures Israel, Viola Ventures, Finistere, and OurCrowd pitched in as well.
What problem is it solving? Taranis combines aerial imagery with AI to identify and analyze crop threats such as insect infestation, disease, weeds, and nutrient deficiencies. Its prescription engine then recommends treatment to help farmers prevent crop yield loss.
“Until recently, growers have had to wait on time-consuming manual scouting to assess threats, formulate an action plan, and react,” Ofir Schlam, CEO and co-founder of Taranis, said.
Scouting, a critical part of the growing process, is largely conducted manually and selectively. Taranis said its solution could help optimize the coverage, precision, and turnaround time of this process.
Using planes and drones, its proprietary AI2 SmartScout Solutions can capture quality images of a field, covering 100 acres in six minutes. It comes up with a diagnosis 20 times faster and with 20 times more data points scouted than manual means, the company claims.
Taranis offers a full-service scheme, taking care of all operations and logistics, including drone pods and operators for image capturing. It also recently launched a self-operation scheme, where it trains its clients to operate flights.
What are its future plans? With nearly USD 60 million in total funding to date, Taranis aims to further scale its solutions and bring them to Asia.
“In Asia, the agriculture food industry is unable to keep up with the region’s burgeoning population growth and demand,” the company said, adding that it could help improve crop yields for row crop growers across the region. It believes the market presents a lot of longer-term opportunities, especially with growers of sugarcane, soy, and wheat.
Taranis has so far completed a week-long pilot on sugarcane crops in Indonesia—its first entry into Asia. It said it could also potentially expand to Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, and Papua New Guinea.
Asia has around 23% of the world’s agricultural land, producing 60% of the world’s food. In Southeast Asia, 16% of the land is used for agricultural purposes. The agriculture industry is valued at over USD 620 billion annually and contributes up to 10% of the region’s gross domestic product.
Some agritech players in the space include Myanmar’s Village Link, which is also focused on improving crop yields, and Chinese agricultural drone maker XAG.
How much traction has it gotten? The US-based company has about 200 customers for its AI2 service. It also monitors more than 2 million acres of commodity crops and 20 million acres of land globally for over 19,000 customers in the US, Canada, Latin American, Russia, Ukraine, and Australia.
Taranis currently employs over 80 people worldwide.
What is its funding history?
- Series B round (2018): USD 20 million from Viola Ventures (lead), Nutrien, Cavallo Ventures, and Sumitomo Corporation Europe.
- Series A round (2017): USD 7.5 million from lead investors Finistere Ventures and Vertex Ventures, along with Eshbol Investments, Mindset Ventures, OurCrowd, and angel investor Eyal Gura.
- Seed round (2016): USD 2 million from lead investors OurCrowd and Eshbol Ventures, along with Salesforce founder Marc Benioff, Kaeden Capital, and iAngels.
This article first appeared in Tech in Asia.