Chinese dronemaker EAVision has raised $30 million in a Series C funding round co-led by Singapore sovereign fund Temasek, Chinese state-sponsored investor CITIC, and Shanghai-based agrifoodtech VC firm Bits x Bites.
Major corporate investors including German chemicals giant BASF and US agribusiness firm Continental Grain Company also participated in the round, alongside Chinese financial investors Suzhou Oriza Holdings, Zhidao Capital, Songshan Capital, and Yongxin Oriental.
“EAVision’s technology [helps] bring targeted and precise farm management to vast, industrial-scale operations. We look forward to seeing the company advance its talent, technology and application roadmap and partnerships to achieve sustainable growth,” Shi Liang, chairman of the CITIC Agri Fund, said in a statement.
The Series C funds will be used to boost EAVision’s R&D capabilities and accelerate its expansion in China and overseas, the startup said.
EAVision’s drones are specially designed for use in more geographically challenging agricultural settings – in particular, hillsides.
Around 34% of China’s farmland is in mountainous areas, according to the Suzhou-based startup, with much of this set aside for fruit, nut, and tea cultivation.
Hillsides and steeply terraced farms can prove tricky for autonomous drones, many of which are built with flatter fields in mind.
Using a combination of AI-driven computer vision and sensor tech to afford “superior object detection” and “exceptional stability [in] tree crop vegetations with complicated gradients,” EAVision’s vehicles are able to more effectively navigate such environments.
A specially designed mist sprinkler also enables the startup’s drones to hover just one meter from the crown of tree crop plantations, allowing for highly targeted application of inputs and reducing unwanted but potentially harmful spraying onto adjacent areas.
In trials on a citrus farm in south China’s Guangxi province, EAVision’s spraying drones demonstrated a 90% improvement in preventing spider mites over traditional labor, according to the startup.
The tech has an impressive pedigree behind it, with EAVision’s team including former execs from the likes of Tesla and China’s national railway in fields such as autopilot control, self-driving safety, and image detection systems. Outside of China, the drones have already been deployed in Japan, South Korea, and African countries.
Bits x Bites managing partner Joseph Zhou said that ag drones are “uniquely suited for China as its geographical characteristics make fixed-wing aircraft – or similarly large land-based machinery – [that are] popular in the West less relevant.”
“This lends an opportunity for technological innovators like EAVision to cater solutions for these farmers to grow more with less, safely and cost-effectively,” he added.
BASF Venture Capital managing director Markus Solibieda said that the startup offers an “innovative and highly sophisticated technology” with “the potential to significantly improve efficiency in the application of crop protection products.”
“We want to help them to develop their technology even further. This engagement reflects BASF’s commitment to sustainability and to the fast-growing innovative markets in Asia,” he added.