Today the Commercial Drone Fund, a venture capital fund launched by Airware focused on investing in promising commercial drone businesses around the world, announced it has invested in Raptor Maps, a Cambridge-based company developing a drone-enabled technology platform for the agriculture sector.
With the use of drones, tractor-mounted sensors and software, Raptor Maps has created an affordable system for farmers that allows them to precisely map, analyze and measure the quality of crops at critical times during the growing season. This helps farmers to know the conditions that will maximize crop yield, allowing them to make more informed decisions and reduce unnecessary cost and labor. A number of specialty crop growers across the United States and Canada have successfully implemented Raptor Maps technology this growing season.
“The agriculture sector has been an early adopter of commercial drone technology, with several companies now offering products for monitoring crops,” explains John Kolaczynski, head of corporate development for the Commercial Drone Fund. “What impressed us with Raptor Maps’ product is that it collects a vast amount of data, distills it down, and correlates actions that a grower can take on a season-to-season basis — something we haven’t seen in other drone products. We believe this is a great product for the agriculture sector that can drive increased yields and reduced costs for growers.”
Raptor Maps goes beyond just drone mapping and yield data overlays, though. As farmers are constantly experimenting with new chemicals, fertilizer regimens, seed types, and techniques, Raptor Maps allows them to perform statistical analysis for A/B testing to compare and optimize these various inputs for fruits and vegetables. The company is currently developing a software tool that works for all crops.
“Until now, drone technology has been more of a curiosity in agriculture,” said Nikhil Vadhavkar, CEO of Raptor Maps. “Farmers would receive maps with generic metrics like ‘crop stress’, but the actionability and ability to calculate a return-on-investment was limited. We are now able to ground truth the drone data and perform statistical analyses to show a farmer the value they are receiving from their practices in absolute, rather than relative, terms.”
Raptor Maps’ effort this growing season has already created a lasting impression on their early customers. Washington state-based grower Steve Phipps of Piper Ranch will utilize data from this year’s yield to influence his practices for next season.
“Raptor Maps gave me a breakdown of potato sizes on my 130-acre field. The size analysis showed I could reduce an input and save money while maintaining yield,” said Steve Phipps of Piper Ranch in Moses Lake, Washington. “The professional crew installed hardware and gathered data without interrupting our operation—zero down time and provided a unique and valuable service, and I will use them again next year.”
Raptor Maps recently graduated from the Y Combinator Summer 2016 batch, and in 2015, was awarded the grand prize in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.
About Commercial Drone Fund:
Airware’s Commercial Drone Fund is a VC-structured fund focused on early-stage startups developing technologies that are critical to scaling the use of commercial drones across a variety of applications. It makes investments in five key areas: sensor hardware, software applications, cloud-based aerial data analysis tools, drone-based services, and complete solutions for specific industries. For more information, visit CommercialDroneFund.com.