Naspers has announced a R100 million investment in South African agritech business Aerobotics through its early-stage business funding initiative Naspers Foundry.
It said that the investment is pending approval by local authorities.
Aerobotics, which was founded in 2014, is a subscription-based tech company that uses AI, drones, and software to help farmers manage their crops and predict crop yields.
These include tree counts, identification of missing trees, and the size and health of trees.
The company also can engineer fruit counts, and can provide data on the size and colour of this fruit.
These insights are delivered through the business’ proprietary Aeroview platform and Aeroview InField mobile app.
Aerobotics co-founder and CEO James Paterson said the business is delighted to join forces with Naspers.
“We are excited to have Naspers as a partner, bringing proven skills in building global technology companies together with the capital required to continue building for, and with, the agricultural industry,” said Paterson.
“The intersection of agriculture and technology has always been my passion and it has been incredible to work with a talented team, and leading agricultural groups, to contribute towards the future of agriculture,” he added.
Paterson said the business has seen great support from commercial-scale farmers and, more recently, crop insurance companies in the US who require accurate tree-level information about their clients.
Naspers South Africa CEO Phuti Mahanyele-Dabengwa said that the partnership made sense because Aerobotics is addressing societal challenges – something that Naspers Foundry prioritises in its investments.
“Food security is of paramount importance in South Africa, and the Aerobotics platform provides a positive contribution towards helping to sustain it,” said Mahanyele-Dabengwa.
He said that the importance of food security has been highlighted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This young, all South African team, has produced a world-class technology solution in South Africa and has also successfully entered the US market where they are gaining momentum,” added Mahanyele-Dabengwa.