Poladrone, Malaysian agritech drone solutions provider announced today that it raised US$4.29 million (RM18 million) in a seed funding round. Led by Wavemaker Partners, other investors included the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), ZB Capital Limited, and some angel investors.
Founded by Cheong Jin Xi (JX) in 2016, Poladrone recognized that the market was lacking in agriculture drone players. Over the years, the use of dronetech in Malaysia has become very closely correlated to agritech, with an increasing number of players cropping up to develop the sector too.
Some names include Aerodyne, Malvus Sense, Meraque, Mata Aerotech, Acis Technology, Aeronerve and Braintree Technologies who all have arms in solving agricultural challenges, amongst others.
The Agriculture industry that has a huge market potential yet is extremely challenging to commercialise technology [in] due to the low margins, unskilled workforce, over-reliance on foreign labour, internet connectivity, road accessibility, and many other factors,” JX elaborated. Instead of worrying about competitors, they’re focusing on getting the unit economics right.
With its eyes set on the agricultural sector, Poladrone has made advancements with its tech via innovations like Oryctes, which was launched in August 2020. Oryctes is named after the rhinoceros beetle, a pest known to be dangerous to oil palm crops and capable of reducing fruit yield by up to 25%.
To reduce losses that could add up to an estimated RM40.25 billion, frequent pesticide spraying is required to maintain plant health. Using Real-Time Kinematics (RTK) positioning, on-edge AI and custom nozzle setups, Oryctes spot-sprays with centimetre-level precision, making it a useful tool in oil palm crops.
Since the startup’s drones are all manufactured locally, services like customisation and drone maintenance will be supported at Poladrone’s service centres. Currently with a newly established centre in Kluang, Johor, the service centres aim to provide service support, scheduled maintenance, and spare parts replacement.
They are opening up a centre in Alor Setar, Kedah to serve the northern markets followed by Teluk Intan, Bintulu, Tawau, with a target of 10 locations by the end of 2022.
“There are two primary reasons for us raising our seed round. The first, to build a world-class team to further improve and optimise our solutions for the industry. The second, to allow us to quickly scale our operations and set up service centres (both in Malaysia and regionally),” JX explained.
With the quick adoption rates of their dronetech solutions amidst the pandemic, Poladrone was faced with the need to quadruple its team. In under a year, Poladrone has gone from having a headcount of 20 to over 80 to cope with demands.
At the moment, Poladrone already has a presence in Thailand, and is now eyeing expansion to Indonesia as most of the company’s solutions are customised for the oil palm industry.
JX stated that Indonesia has the largest planted area for oil palm in the world that’s even ahead of Malaysia, giving Poladrone a huge market potential there.
You can learn more about Poladrone here.
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