AgroDroneGroup, a resident startup of the Skolkovo Foundation that uses drones and computer software to closely monitor the condition of soil and crops, has raised 25 million rubles ($440,000) in investment from the Russian-Belarusian Venture Investment Fund (RBFVI), the Firrma investment news website reported last week.

The company, whose technology enables farmers to check crops for disease, monitor the harvest and determine soil quality and nutrient content, plans to use the funds to expand its operations, including by setting up a design engineering office in Belarus and organizing production of drones for neighbouring markets, Firrma reported. The technology has already been tried and tested in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Drones are widely used in precision farming to reduce costs and increase harvest yields. Photo: Pixabay.

AgroDroneGroup says that its technology can increase harvest yields by up to 20 to 30 percent, and reduce costs by 15 to 20 percent, by revealing the precise location of weeds and disease and other crucial information. By providing 3D relief mapping of the land, the technology can be used to prepare the ground more efficiently for a crop, reveal areas of stagnant water and waterlogged soil, and identify the most fertile patches of land.

The deal, in which the amount of equity involved was not disclosed, is the first for RBFVI, which was set up in December 2016.

The Russian government wants to quintuple the use of IT in agriculture by 2024, Igor Kozubenko, head of the department of development and management of state information resources within the Agriculture Ministry, told the Precision Farming conference held at the Skolkovo Technopark last month, noting that digital processes are currently only used in 8-10 percent of the sector.

Drones and satellites are so crucial to precision farming technologies that their use deserves the separate term of agronautics, Ruslan Kamalov, head of Skolkovo’s biomed cluster, which includes a subsection devoted to agrotech, told the conference.