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.
Integrating drones, tractor-mounted sensors and software, Raptor Maps has developed a system for farmers that allows them to precisely map, analyze and measure the quality of crops at critical times during the growing season. This enables farmers to make more informed decisions regarding crop yield and improve efficiency.
“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.”
“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’ efforts have impressed 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.