How the idea to increase the yield of farmers using drones has become a big business project.
About 8 years ago, drones began to rapidly enter our lives. The fashion for light controlled aircraft gave birth to us – a group of like-minded technologists – an idea for business. We began to develop drones for industrial surveying of the territory, mapping.
The first clients appeared. But we soon realized: this market is quickly filling up. And you need to look for your own, original direction. We found it – agriculture.
To save plants from disease and increase yield is the dream of every farmer. But how to keep track of crops in dozens and hundreds of hectares of fields? And if the disease is invisible to the eye or problems in the soil – how to recognize? This is where drones come to the rescue.
We have developed specialized drones with spectral sensors that allow you to scan the state of the fields. We created a scientific methodology and program for processing these images. And at the output they received a service product that allows farmers to monitor the condition of the fields.
What is the trick of our product? Unlike satellite imagery and scientific agro-pilots, which are in service with scientific research institutes, we take more consumer pictures and reports. To understand them, you do not need to have special scientific knowledge and calculate complex agronomic indexes – on nitrogen content, the presence of parasites and diseases, rust of wheat, and so on.
The whole scheme of work is extremely simple. A farmer orders a shoot. A professional pilot flies over the fields with the help of agrodrons. Sensors scan in detail all the information about plants and soil. Pictures are transferred to our research center and analyzed. And the farmer receives a clear report: what is happening in the fields, in what state the crops are, where there are problem areas, what needs to be done. And time can eliminate problems.
We calculated: such a product allows farmers to increase the yield by 20% and significantly reduce costs.
The explanation is simple: farmers suffer financial losses due to improper harvest planning. It is necessary to take into account many factors: preparing of the soil, growth of seeds, if necessary, cure diseases, kill pests, weeds.
Solid fertilizer is too expensive. Our technology allows us to solve these problems pointwise. By getting information about “problem areas”, farmers can quickly intervene in the process, increase yields and save money.
It is important that our technology allows you to see the problems on the fields before they become visible to the agronomist.
Our company is called AgroDrone Group. Group – because it is a team of scientific and engineering centers.
These are two laboratories at Moscow State University, at the Pryanishnikov Research Institute for Agricultural Chemistry, the Research Institute of Potato Lorch, the Research Institute of Biological Plant Protection and even the Korean University of Konkuk – we have formed a scientific program with them. After all, the main thing in our product is not aircraft, but the scientific base that is sewn into them.
Of course, we are greatly supported by farms and agricultural companies with which we cooperate.
Firstly we were selling the drones themselves, then now we turn to the sale of complex services: with the challenge of pilots, analytics from our experts, technical support.
Now in the promotion of products we rely on large farms. We first offer testing. If everything triples – we conclude a long-term contract.
Orders on average start at 500 hectares when first introduced into the economy. In subsequent orders, the area grows. This year we have already made the first international sale – to Kazakhstan.
We now have five major customers. Four in Russia and one in Kazakhstan.
We also conduct sales and plan to expand the market with the help of large strategic investors with their fields and customer base. Recently we have entered into partnership contracts with the company “Eurochem” (one of the three best manufacturers of agrochemistry in Russia).
The next investment step we consider attracting new strategic investors, when the company comes not only with money, but also with a client base and specialists in our sphere.
To do this, we conduct market analysis, improve technology, and actively participate in major forums and conferences.
The first drone for farms we created in 2016. At the same time, the company conducted the first round of investment, attracted 23 million rubles and became a resident of Skolkovo. In the second round in March 2018, we received another 25 million rubles from the Russian-Belarusian Venture Capital Fund, created by Infrafund RVC and the Belarusian Innovation Fund and RVC.
In the third round, in 2019-2020, we plan to raise already 230 million rubles and start selling our kopter in Europe and Asia.
We were convinced: products are in demand in the market, they invest in this business and sales bring a steady income.
Before the creation of AgroDronGroup, as a team of technologists, we sold 20 complexes with drones for industrial surveys per year (in a complex from 1 to 6 devices).
Now we sell complexes of services with aircraft, software, and a large staff of specialists who service vehicles and analyze images. We receive orders from agricultural farms in thousands of hectares of land.
The prospects for the global agrodrons market, where we are trying to win our positions, are opening up to good. After a year and a half, Markets is predicting more than $ 4 billion to the market, and by 2030, according to PwC estimates, its volume will be more than $ 30 billion.
Now we are entering the international market. Our products and services are already interested in South America, Southeast Asia, where agribusiness has a wide development.
We also plan to expand our business model – and offer not just technical services with semi-automatic data processing, but a cloud services like Uber. We called it AgroUber.
Principle: the farmer makes an order, marks out on the map the part of the field that he needs to examine, and receives offers from different pilots. Further causes, suppose, the nearest. He quickly makes a professional survey and uploads data to us. And we are already engaged in fully automated agronomic processing and we get our percentage.