Israeli agtech startup PlanetWatchers Ltd., which develops crop monitoring technologies, has secured $3.5 million in a pre-A Series funding round. The investment was led by The Trendlines Group through its Agrifood Fund, alongside Seraphim Capital, Creative Ventures, and Ridgeline.

Monitoring crops for insurance purposes

The Israeli startup develops an AI-powered system that provides detailed information about crop fields, at any time, and under any condition. PlanetWatchers leverages advanced ML algorithms in combination with Synthetic Aperture Radar data to create in-season insights that aim to reduce overhead costs and increase customer satisfaction. According to the company, one of the unique benefits of using SAR technology is that its system can produce crop insight in spite of harsh weather conditions or poor lighting.

One sector benefiting from the company’s system is surprisingly not the one you may be thinking about. If you guessed insurance, then good for you. PlanetWatchers has stated that its first application will help significantly increase the efficiency of crop insurance claim processes by cutting their time from months to a virtually immediate response.

The system’s machine learning technologies support crop insurers, providing them with detailed information regarding planting dates, acreage, crop classification, and claims validation at scale. The PlanetWatchers system uses the powerful remote sensing in SAR to bounce microwave signals off of Earth’s surface to detect physical properties and the changes to them over time. This helps crop insurers  shorten time to claims without ever having to step on a field.

PlanetWatchers was founded in 2016 by Ariel Smoliar, Roi Shilo, and Shay Lev. The trio got the idea after realizing that the SAR technologies, which they used as part of an elite intelligence unit in the Israeli army, could be deployed for commercial markets. The startup’s AaaS (analytics as a service) model has already been adopted by crop insurance company ProAg, the World Bank, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others. PlanetWatchers reports that the capital will be used to expand sales and marketing efforts while furthering development of crop monitoring solutions.

Trendlines Agrifood Fund CEO Nitza Kardish, PhD., commented, “Our investment in PlanetWatchers corresponds with our goals and objectives: the company has a robust and unique technology enabling direct access to a great deal of data to all players in the agrifood value chain, from the farmer in the field to insurance companies and banks. PlanetWatchers’ management and development teams bring excellent capabilities and a proven track record, which together with us and our financial and strategic co-investors, provide a complete set of skills and knowledge for the future of PlanetWatchers. In addition to PlanetWatchers’ important and direct contribution to its customers, it also makes a very significant contribution to minimizing the world’s carbon footprint. We are confident that PlanetWatchers heralds a new paradigm for preserving our planet's resources.”