Tuesday, November 17, 2020

"Chinese drone maker XAG nets $182m funding from Baidu, SoftBank"

 That seems like a lot of money for an ag drone maker.

From AgFunderNews, November 16:

Ag drone maker XAG has raised ¥1.2 billion ($182 million) in a funding round co-led by Baidu Ventures — the VC arm of Beijing-based internet search company Baidu — and SoftBank Vision Fund II, the Japanese tech giant’s new AI-focused mega-fund.

Also joining the round were Sinovation Ventures, Guangzhou Yuexiu Industrial Investment Fund Management, Guangzhou Emerging Industry Development Fund, and existing investors Chengwei Capital and Mingtai Capital.

The Guangzhou-based startup was co-founded by former Microsoft exec Peng Bin in 2007 under the name XAircraft. He decided on a rebrand after a road trip through China’s northwestern Xinjiang region in 2012.

While traveling through the province’s vast tracts of farmland, Peng was struck by the sight of elderly farm laborers spraying crops with heavy pesticide tanks strapped to their backs – and little in the way of protective clothing to shield them from the harmful chemicals.

“I could smell the acrid stench of pesticide from afar, and I thought maybe my unmanned aircraft could help,” Peng told the South China Morning Post in an interview last year.

The following year, the company pivoted from producing recreational unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to dedicate itself to agricultural applications of drone technology.

Today, XAG offers a range of UAVs designed for crop protection, fertilizer spraying, remote sensing, and seeding that can be controlled from a smartphone. The startup has also branched out into other ‘unmanned’ farm tech such as ground-based ag robots, surveillance cameras, and weather sensors.

XAG says its products and ancillary services are available in 42 countries worldwide, and claims they operate across more than 100 million acres of farmland. Its customer base includes almost 5 million smallholder farmers. The startup has partnered with the likes of German agro-chemicals major Bayer, Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, and European aircraft manufacturer Airbus....