Many in the drone industry have their attention focused on low-hanging fruit like drone delivery, with the potential that flying robots could bring medicine, gifts, even mimosas for brunch, to your door.
But one company is thinking a little bit differently about potential drone use cases, and investors seem to like it.
SeeTree, an AI-powered, end-to-end service that provides growers with intelligence on trees and tree clusters, has raised $30 million in a Series B funding round, tripling its total funding to date to $45 million.
For now, SeeTree is focused on using its drones to support growth of citrus trees, which is a natural fit considering one of its key investors is Citrosuco, one of the world’s largest orange juice producers with sales to more than 100 countries.
“We started with citrus and are servicing the largest citrus growers globally,” said said Israel Talpaz, SeeTree co-founder and CEO. “We have a strong playbook and will continue scaling within citrus. We are now equally focused on growing our offerings into new crops such as almonds, olives and hazelnuts, where we are already deployed and supporting farmers.”
SeeTree’s other investors include International Finance Corporation, the private sector arm of the World Bank Group (which led the Series B funding round); Orbia Ventures; and Kubota, a Japanese manufacturer specializing in tractor and agricultural equipment.
How SeeTree works
SeeTree uses military-grade drones, ground sensors, artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to understand a tree’s health. Drones equipped with multi-spectral sensors collect ultra-high resolution images used to analyze the health and growth rates of every tree in a farmer’s grove. Combine that with tree and soil samples, plus machine learning algorithms to analyze the data, and from there, the farmer can design personalized cultivation plans for each tree or cluster of trees. Among the use cases are tracking tree health, pests and diseases.
“Our vision is to enable the Tree Farming 4.0 Revolution with the Intelligence-per-Tree that we provide,” Talpaz said. “SeeTree as a standalone solution can reduce operational expenses by 20-40%. By connecting SeeTree to tractors and irrigation systems, we can unlock additional optimizations to further increase the value to our farmers.”
Where SeeTree is at now
Today, SeeTree — which has about 120 people on its team right now — is focused on large growers worldwide who farm 1,000 hectares or more of tree crops. At the moment, the company is monitoring more than 50 million trees worldwide, with operations in Brazil, the United States, Chile and South Africa. SeeTree expects to monitor 1 billion trees by 2023.
SeeTree has been around since Sept. 2017, created by a team of former intelligence officers and entrepreneurs based in Israel.
Tree farming is still a relatively small use case of drones. Among the other companies focused on using drones to help trees are U.S.-based DroneSeed, though even their position in the drone industry is a bit different. DroneSeed has specially designed drone with a device that can blast fertilizer and seeds into the ground at 350 feet per second, enabling it to plant 800 seeds per hour (one human worker typically can plant 800 seeds in a day).