UK remote sensing startup Hummingbird Technologies has closed its Series B funding round on $10 million after an initial £7 million ($8.9m) close in May, led by Saudi Arabia’s state-owned agriculture company SALIC (Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Company), previously announced. Joining SALIC in the round are BASF Venture Capital and the venture arm of Canadian telecommunications firm Telus, as well as UK investment firm Downing Ventures.
Hummingbird, founded in London in 2016, uses drones, AI and satellite imagery to produce high-resolution maps that help farmers forecast crop stress, pinpoint disease and weeds, and predict yields within 24 hours. CEO Will Wells says it provides farmers with a “consistent input optimization now of 10-20%, depending on geography and product.” An example of crops Hummingbird specializes in are cereals, canola, potatoes, sugarcane, corn, peas, soybean and lettuce.
Germany-based lead investor BASF has been an R&D and trials partner globally since 2016 and a commercial partner in the UK and Australia enhancing their internal precision ag expertise. And with this new strategic investment, the pair will consider a partnership between Hummingbird and BASF’s digital platform Xarvio.
Snapshot: About Hummingbird Technologies’ Series B
The Series B funds will go towards ‘augmenting its leading position in core international markets’ and to expand into API software integration and machine learning “at a team and code level”, according to Wells, in the official release. “We have a clear target to become the leading global remote sensing player in agtech, and with such strong institutional balance sheets and technical expertise behind us, our journey towards achieving this goal has gathered serious momentum.”
Wells added that Hummingbird will be launching in parts of the US and Canada in 2020, saying “we’re planning a full roll out across an expected 1 million acres in Canada, and the US with targeted proof of concepts, and then fully in 2021.” This would add on to its existing operations in “massive farms” in Russia, Ukraine, China, the US, Canada and Brazil, and in the UK. Hummingbird’s high profile clients also include Continental Farmers Group, John Deere, Velcourt and PepsiCo. As part of SALIC’s strategic investment, Hummingbird will also oversee 400,000 of Saudi government-owned farmland in Australia and Ukraine.
It’s been a tough road for drone-related agtech startups after an initial period of hype around the potential for the technology to drastically improve farm operations was met with dissatisfied farmer customers unsure what to do with all this new aerial data. Several drone companies pivoted away from agriculture to focus on other industries like construction that had a simpler mandate. Those that remained in agriculture soon realized they needed to become either an image provider or a more involved decision support software program combining a variety of data sources and using machine learning to provide farmers with increasingly specific and accurate insights about their fields that they could act on (Read more about this second wave of drone technologies here.)
“We want to support Hummingbird to develop new markets for its unique technology and establish new business models,” said Markus Solibieda, managing director of BASF Venture Capital. The firm’s investment focus is in advanced materials and agtech, typically investing in seed to Series B rounds. “Our colleagues in BASF’s Agricultural Solutions division are already cooperating with Hummingbird under a new business model. We are supporting these activities through this investment.”
TELUS Ventures has invested in over 70 companies, with a focus on innovative technologies such as digital health, IoT, AI and security. It acquired farm management platform Farm at Hand in August 2019, and Wells told us that the Canadian firm is eyeing an expansion into North America’s agriculture sector.
“We believe innovative companies like Hummingbird – that provide farmers with data-driven, user-friendly platforms to drive decisions – have the potential for wide-scale adoption as farmers increasingly look for tools to improve their bottom lines and reduce their environmental impact,” said Rich Osborn, managing partner at TELUS Ventures. “Through our investment, we have the potential to change cultivation and help mature technology platforms to connect all aspects of the farm and food supply chain.”
Hummingbird is now on a hiring spree to increase its 40-strong workforce in London. Find the job descriptions on AFN‘s jobs board here. (Did you know you can add your own job ads for free and a chance to get featured in our weekly newsletter? Post them here.)
Additional reporting by Louisa Burwood-Taylor
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