Precision’s AI-powered drones to reduce farm chemicals

  • May 17, 2021
  • William Payne

A Canadian firm that wants to use AI-powered drones to slash the use of herbicides in row crop agriculture has just raised $20 million in seed funding. Investment in Saskatchewan-based Precision AI was led by At One Ventures, founded by GoogleX co-founder Tom Chi and BDC Capital, with investments by Fulcrum Global Capital, Golden Opportunities Fund, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and Protein Industries Canada.

Precision AI’s drone-based computer vision technology enables 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. Ultimately, the company’s vision is to deploy hives of intelligent drones that will automate the crop protection process throughout the entire growing season, optimising every square inch of farmland on a per-plant basis.

According to Precision AI, its approach to drone swarming allows for application on large acreage crops at a much lower cost than traditional large farming machinery. The company says it holds the promise to reduce pesticide use by up to 95% while maintaining crop yield and saving farmers up to $52 per acre per growing season. “The cost savings are massive,” said Daniel McCann, chief executive of Precision AI. “And the affordable unit economics of drones makes the technology accessible to even the smallest farm”.

“We were immediately struck by Precision AI’s unique combination of drone technology with precise chemical application. Not only can it minimise toxic runoff to protect waterways and downstream ecology, but also reduce farmers’ operating costs and increase their revenue with a zero-chemical residue label,” said Laurie Menoud, Partner at At One Ventures and member of the Board of Directors.

The platform also increases producer competitiveness in the global market with integrated food supply chain traceability and proof of sustainable farming practices.

“Autonomous, precision spraying is the future of modern agriculture, and Precision AI’s best-in-class technology stack and deep management expertise have the potential to accelerate the development of this industry in exciting ways,” said Kevin Lockett, partner at U.S.-based Fulcrum Global Capital. “With an increasingly informed consuming public demanding greater transparency into the food it eats, we are excited to partner with Precision AI and the other co-investors in commercialising multiple ways to reduce the use of traditional chemicals within our food system while increasing sustainability and farmer profitability.”