Drone sensor and analytics company SlantRange has raised $5 million in equity financing led by The Investor Group, a California-based group of angel investors.
The Series A funding will support product deployment of the company’s agri sensor and analytics product designed for use on unmanned drones. The tech upstart plans to accelerate its marketing activities, build out company infrastructure and continue product development, SlantRange chief executive Mike Ritter told Agri Investor.
SlantRange is already selling its platform of sensors and software to Midwestern corn and soybean growers and has shown success monitoring cotton in North Texas and wheat growers in overseas markets, said Ritter. The company hopes to optimise the software to monitor a broader variety of crops, starting with nut trees and wine vineyards in California.
SlantRange bills its platform as unique in the market for its specific focus on agriculture and ability to work with a large variety of commercially available drones. The fact that much of the processing is done on the platform, without the need for a network connection or access to the cloud makes SlantRange’s technology an attractive product for farmers operating in areas with limited access to technology support, said Ritter.
Another issue the company is attempting to address is the amount of time it takes to collect and analyse data.
“We’ve heard from a number of famers,” said Ritter, “that the time to collect that data and the time to process the data is really hobbling the value proposition, (for most drone technologies).”
Part of this has to do with the number of passes most sensors must make over a tract of farmland. Ritter compares the process to mowing a lawn, with every pass there has to be some overlap to avoid gaps in coverage. Most sensors, he says, require 80 percent overlap compared to just 20 percent with SlantRange’s sensors. The result he says is a 75 percent reduction in data collection time and a reduction in the amount of data to be processed by a factor of 16. Ritter says the company’s proprietary processing technology further speeds up data analysis.
“Technology is transforming agriculture, and drones represent a key part of that change,” Sheldon Lewis, the lead investor with the Investor Group, said in a statement. “Rather than slow, costly and sometimes inaccurate visual inspection, SlantRange helps farmers harness vast amounts of drone data to improve all aspects of their operations. They’re creating a critical new market to help farmers feed a growing world.”
Ritter said SlantRange’s software can be modified to track crop plant and weed densities, stress from pest infestations, nutrient deficiencies and dehydration for a variety of crops. Eventually, he said he expects the technology to be expanded for use in forestry and livestock operations.