DRONES, AI & AGRICULTURE
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
The 4th Industrial Revolution is radically changing every facet of our daily lives, from AI in smartphones to drastically reduced data costs from 5G networks, these technologies are impacting the way we live, work and now, the way we farm. AgriTech has become a fast-growing industry combining advances in farming with technology to empower farmers with increased data, analysis and predictive tools.
The 5 or 10-year digital delay is often spoken about in the African-Tech market but in the case of AgriTech, Africa is leading the charge with companies such as Aerobotics. Launching in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa as a drone building & data analysis company they drastically pivoted and as a result, rapidly expanded. Aerobotics has been named one of the Most Innovative Start-ups by Fast Company.
Their rapid expansion has seen the launch of new offices in Los Angeles and expanding their local South African team to 85+ staff members. With their simple subscription-based model, the local team has already managed to capture 40% of the macadamia nut market and 20% of the citrus market in South Africa making them ripe for huge investments as they continue to grow. One of the most notable was the recent R100 Million investment from Naspers’ early-stage investment arm Foundry. While the amount invested is staggering, especially in the African Venture Capital space, it will be exciting to see how the expertise and network of Naspers helps to drive growth in this exciting new startup.
How It Works
By using drones and satellite imagery, the company is able to create 3D models of each of the trees in the orchid. Doing this enables them to produce a health rating for each tree, providing the farmer with valuable insight such as tree height, total orchid area and volume as well as other early threat detection tools such as moisture maps, pest and disease detection.
The drones are even taking it one step further and providing analytics to both farmers and insurers on predicted crop yield. By analyzing the health of the trees and using sophisticated AI, they’re able to give both parties insight into how their farm will perform and what crop insurance is required, saving both precious time and money.
Typically farmers should have 3 flights conducted per season, per farm. That’s a lot of drone flying that’s required, especially when you’re operating in 18 countries across 4 continents and surveying 65 Million+ trees. They’ve solved this challenge by establishing a drone flyer partnership program which allows for the company to outsource its drone piloting, giving the company the opportunity to scale and creating valuable jobs in farming communities.
Aerobotics is not alone in this pursuit of blending AI, Robotics and Agriculture, with several companies and universities competing to crack the code to food security and sustainable farming. Some of the most promising research has come from The University of Sydney in collaboration with Agerris where they are taking to the ground instead of the sky to assist farmers. With their autonomous digital field hand, they’re able to assist farms with weed detection and removal as well as give insight into soil and crop health.
These technological advances in areas such as farming are exactly why 4IR is so exciting. In it's simplest form, 4IR is focused on creating a series of networked devices which allow you to extract & process information from the real world, to solve real-world problems. At Bhekadala we understand that 4IR is more than just technology but rather about empowering individuals to utilize these wonderful technologies to improve their day to day operations. Companies such as Aerobotics and Agerrris are doing exactly that, but we believe it could be taken one step further through integrated learning.
By providing farmers with the technology and an integrated On The Job Learner Management System, farmers could have information on the latest farming techniques, best course of action for a specific disease control and how to deal with an ever-changing climate directly on their smartphone. This learning could be further expanded to surrounding communities, upskilling community members on farming and technology. We're extremely excited about the progress being made in the Agriculture sector and believe that integrations with learning are not only possible but necessary for this technology to reach its full potential.
How do you believe your industry could take advantage of AI & Robotics?
BhekaDala Digital is your Fourth Industrial Revolution partner, helping organisations and cities throughout Africa & The Middle East make their digital transformational ideas reality. We've partnered up with industry leaders such as WinWin International to ensure we can provide a holistic approach to business transformation.
We’re excited to be on this journey of transformation with industry leaders and truly believe that through collaboration we will be able to empower employees and organisations to maximize their potential.
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