Are data and algorithms on their way to replacing rancher and farmer expertise? In a world threatened by a food crisis and natural disasters, it certainly seems so, and today (Wednesday) the Israeli agritech startup Taranis announced the completion of a Series D funding round of $40 million. The round was led by Inven Capital (European). Seraphim Space and Farglory Group also participated, as well as the existing investors Viola, Vertex, iAngels and the investment arms of Hitachi and Micron.
Able to detect if crops will get sick
Taranis’ development uses ML algorithms which were developed based on a data set they created over the years and provides stakeholders around the world with insights in various fields, such as early detection of pests, the identification of areas that have not been sown properly or those that need fertilization and pest control, the early detection of diseases and nutritional deficiencies in crops, and monitoring changes in crop health throughout the season. Over the years, the Israeli company has raised over 200 million images from drones, satellites, and light aircrafts which created what it claims is the largest image database of its kind in the field.
The Israeli startup offers farmers a dashboard with all the insights collected on their fields, based on the analysis of its aerial photographs. At the same time, they also offer a mobile app that provides the insights of Taranis, in a bit of a simpler fashion, for those who need access in real-time and not just when they are sitting in front of their computer. In a conversation with Geektime, the company's CEO, Bar Veinstein, said that the company was able to improve its ML algorithms to a higher level of accuracy: "As a result of the development and improvements, we reached a level of accuracy of 95% in the automatic labelling of pests, diseases, and weeds."
He also said that Taranis has a platform that does the labelling of the many photographs the company collects from agricultural fields, which is an operation that can take a long time and consumes quite a few resources. The company has also entered a new field in terms of the identification it provides to farmers: the field of Carbon Credits, which permits a person, company, or business to a certain amount of carbon dioxide. People or companies that don’t use all their Carbon Credits, a.k.a don’t emit the amount of carbon dioxide that is allocated to them, can sell those credits (usually to others who do emit more than they’re allowed). So, Taranis has developed models that can measure the amount of carbon in the soil of their customers with the help of remote sensing. This allows a farmer who is below his carbon emission quota to sell his credits to a third party and generate additional income.
Taranis has managed to recruit funds during an unstable period, and this is not the first time it has done so as their last recruit was about two years ago at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. Veinstein said the company went started fundraising a few months ago: "We knew that this was a challenging time in terms of raising capital. Luckily, today's investors put a stronger focus on agritech and climate-tech investments, so we were able to arouse good interest from investors who liked our team, our approach to the market, and our rapid growth.” According to him, the significant difference between the recruitment now and the one two years ago is the way investors approach companies: "Investors today are much more careful and thorough in the company evaluation process. We provided a lot of information and analysis, and it was important for them to deeply understand the business model and the company's ability to grow rapidly and reach profitability in the foreseeable future.”
Taranis was founded in 2015 by Ofir Schlam, Eli Bukchin, Eyal Carmi and Asaf Horvitz, and it employs about 110 people worldwide –70 of them in its offices in Tel Aviv. To date, Taranis has raised $100 million.