Taranis, an ag-tech startup that uses aerial scouting and deep learning to identify potential crop issues, announced today that it has raised a $20 million Series B led by Viola Ventures. Existing investors Nutrien (one of the world’s largest fertilizer producers), Wilbur-Ellis venture capital arm Cavallo Ventures and Sumitomo Corporation Europe also participated.
Tel Aviv-based Taranis says its aerial imaging technology, carried on high-speed drones or manned aircraft, is currently used by farms in Argentina, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. It plans to expand into more countries with this round of funding, including Australia.
Founded in 2015 by Ofir Schlam, Asaf Horvitz, Eli Bukchin and Ayal Karmi to increase food production, Taranis’ software targets commodity crops like corn, cotton, wheat, soybean, sugarcane and potatoes. It identifies potential crop issues, including insect damage, nutrient deficiencies and diseases, and provides farmers with magnified, high-resolution images that are detailed enough to (for example) let them see which bugs are eating their plants.
In a press statement, Viola Ventures partner Zvika Orron said “After analyzing the digital farming industry, we proudly chose Taranis to be our first investment in this space. Taranis has all the necessary ingredients to become the leader in farm digitalization: a comprehensive precision agriculture solution, leading industry partners to scale and penetrate the market and a passionate team making it all happen.”
Traditional crop monitoring is labor-intensive and not always accurate, even with the use of sensors to track soil quality, fertilizer levels, insects and other issues. Other venture capital-backed startups using computer vision and AI-based technology to make the process more efficient (a growing field referred to as “precision farming”) include Prospera, which is also based in Tel Aviv, Arable and Ceres Imaging.
Agricultural giants have also started shopping for precision farming startups. For example, over the past 12 months, Deere agreed to buy Blue River, and Brazilian startup Strider was purchased by Syngenta.