You have heard stories about how big data will
Industry commentators are calling for the agricultural industry to get digital.
The most popular argument is that if the agriculture sector is to overcome industry challenges to increase productivity, adapt to change and ultimately achieve food security, it needs to get serious about being smart.
However, one South African startup has realized that farmers don’t have tools to effectively manage their resources, and farms are wasting both time and money through inefficiencies.
The lack of information, insights and data-driven decisions on the ground lead to losses and reduced yields.
This startup is aware that farming is risky and uses regular satellite imagery and drone flights to monitor farmers crop and provide warnings about potential risks. Its solutions increase accuracy and save time by planning targeted scouting trips.
To exemplify, Aerobotics is currently using satellite and drone imagery, plus its web application Aeroview and identifies individual trees and helps growers pinpoint those that are under stress.
“This means that farmers can focus their attention on the areas that matter, and as a result, farm by exception and driven by data, rather than by walking blindly through the field,” Benji Meltzer, the Co-Founder and CTO at
While a large portion of the analysis can now be completed from the office, there is still huge value in walking into the field and ground-truthing this information, he added.
“As a result, we have built an in-field mobile application called Aeroview Scout. This allows growers to take their data into the field, targeting unhealthy trees, assessing damage and prescribing corrective action.”
In a sense, Aerobotics is helping farmers to use artificial intelligence to augment farming.
This Cape Town-based startup could be the world’s biggest firm that provides an end-to-end pest and disease monitoring solution for farmers.
There are a number of international companies working on different aspects of the value chain from drone hardware and mapping to pest and disease image analysis.
“We are yet to come across a competitor working on an end-to-end pest and disease monitoring solution for farmers,” Meltzer reassures.
He quickly adds that Aerobotics now has clients in 11 countries and an operational footprint in two of them, namely South Africa and the USA.
But, how did the company achieve to scale up its business?
The company attributes its growth cloud computing firm Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its innovative drones services.
Meltzer explains that Aerobotics started working with AWS in 2017 through the Activate programme, which we participated in as a member of the Startupbootcamp Insurtech cohort in London.
Through the programme, startups are provided with the resources they need to quickly get started on AWS – including credits, training, and support.
“We were initially looking to move our application to the cloud, enabling us to leverage AWS’ compute capacity (to process drone imagery) and scale horizontally with increased demand,” Meltzer told TechFinancials.co.za
He added that the startup today use the scale of AWS to bring together vast data sources such as satellite and drone imagery as well as in-field data, to analyze them in the cloud, helping farmers monitor crops near real-time and warn them about potential risks.
“The vast compute power available in the cloud allows us to convert the imagery into actionable insights and decisions and passed into the hands of farmers, in the fields, faster.,” he explains.
“We use a variety of AWS services, enabling us to scale delivering content to farmers from one farmer to 1,000 farmers on any given day.”
The Cape Town-based startup is using Amazon S3 to store both raw and processed data efficiently and securely in various regions around the world, allowing it to backup, archive, deploy big data analytics and enable disaster recovery.
The company also uses Amazon CloudFront to serves its application in securely delivering data to users, and Amazon EC2 to process drone-captured imagery, where it uses GPU instances to convert individual, multispectral drone images into high-resolution
Meltzer said all of these services and others allow
Now, Aerobotics has its headquarters in Cape Town and operations in Florida, USA. The company uses Cape Town and Florida to service clients in 11 countries, including the USA, Spain, Australia and the UK. Most of its clients are in South Africa.
This is a great achievement for an agri-startup.
However, how does it ensure farmers data is securely stowed away to be accessed by them for strategic use.
Asked, how is AWS helping Aerobotics to secure farmers information, Meltzer said that the company is able to encrypt farmers’ data and protect their information through secure authentication.
“Farmers are able to upload and interact with their data securely and non-invasively from within our applications,” he explained.
“The information farmers are provided with offers insights on crops and trees, including information on pests and disease to improve harvests and reduce risk. Using AWS compute, data analytics, and other advanced technologies, we help farmers grow healthier crops, despite harsh conditions.”
With services such Amazon S3, EC2, CloudFront and others, Aerobotics is able to differentiate itself in the market.
“These services have allowed us to scale both our product and our market, by focusing on new development, rather than spending time on setting up infrastructure and maintenance.,” said Meltzer.
“Further, we have been able to save on investing in hardware by paying for these powerful machines if and when we need them – allowing us to take advantage of instant compute capacity at the click of a button.”
He added that the company’s edge has also been the ability to provide farmers with the necessary data to take their operations to a new level.
“We have also deployed Amazon CloudWatch to provide us with data and actionable insights to monitor our applications, understand and respond to system-wide performance changes, optimize resource utilization, and get a unified view of operational health.”
With such success, Aerobotics is constantly working on new and exciting innovations.
“We’re currently looking at how we can deliver more accurate insights to farmers, including using higher resolution satellite data and deeper analysis of the drone images we’re collecting,” said Meltzer.
“We also just raised a $2m funding round which we will be using to grow the business in a number of markets around the world, starting with the USA.” – firstname.lastname@example.org