Regina-based AgTech startup Precision AI, which aims to support sustainable farming practices with computer vision technology, has closed $20 million in seed equity capital and grant funding. This represents the first external capital raise for the startup.
“Using artificial intelligence to target individual weeds is a quantum leap in efficiency and sustainability over today’s practices.”
The seed portion was co-led by At One Ventures, which was founded by GoogleX co-founder Tom Chi, and the Industrial Innovation Venture Fund of BDC Capital, with participation from Fulcrum Global Capital and Golden Opportunities Fund. The grant portion includes non-dilutive co-investments from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (STDC) and Protein Industries Canada.
Precision AI declined to disclose how much of the $20 million was split between equity and grant funding. As part of the deal, Joe Regan, managing partner of BDC Capital’s Industrial Innovation Venture Fund has joined Precision AI’s board of directors.
Founded in 2018 and bootstrapped until now, Precision AI’s drone-based computer vision technology facilitates what the company calls a “surgically precise” application of herbicide to individual weeds in row crop farming. By spraying only weeds and avoiding the crop, yields can be maintained at a fraction of the chemical cost, Precision AI claims. Precision AI plans to use the fresh capital to advance its precision farming platform.
“Farms of the future must be sustainable and produce healthier foods,” said Daniel McCann, CEO and founder of Precision AI. “Using artificial intelligence to target individual weeds is a quantum leap in efficiency and sustainability over today’s practices of indiscriminate broadcast application of herbicide.”
According to the startup, typical methods for herbicide spraying can lead to 80 percent wasted on bare ground, whereas its own method promises to reduce pesticide use by up to 95 percent while saving farmers up to $52 per acre every growing season.
Beyond the startup’s key focus on increasing sustainability in farming, Precision AI also claims its platform can increase the competitiveness of producers in the global agriculture market with integrated food supply chain traceability.
Kevin Lockett, partner at Fulcrum Global Capital, highlighted an increased demand for transparency from consumers about the food they eat as one of the ways Precision AI can advance the agricultural industry.
In recent years, tech startups in Canada’s Prairies have seen an increase in funding, particularly in 2019, which saw Saskatchewan’s tech sector raise over $114 million in venture capital (more than the past five years combined), according to the CVCA.
Some of Saskatchewan’s success stories include Saskatoon-based Vendasta, which raised $40 million in mid-2019, and recently went public on the Toronto Stock Exchange, as well as 7Shifts, which raised a $7.9 million Series A round of funding the same year.
New investors have also sprung up in the province to support Saskatchewan’s growing number of startups. In 2019, the Regina-based Conexus Credit Union launched a $30 million venture fund focused on investing in Saskatchewan-based startups. Ecosystem events like United The Prairies are also trying to bring the region’s success stories to the national stage.
Precision AI is trying to innovate a space that is considered a cornerstone of the Prairie economy: agriculture. Saskatchewan specifically is considered the breadbasket of Canada, accounting for 46.8 percent of national field crop area in 2016. Leah Lawrence, president and CEO of STDC, called Precision AI “a shining example of Canadian cleantech innovation.”
Image source Unsplash. Photo by Jan Kopřiva.