Oakland, Calif.-based Ceres Imaging has raised $5 million in a Series A investment led by Romulus Capital.The startup uses cameras, sensors and software to pinpoint crop stress in the field for farmers, so that they can apply herbicides, pesticides and irrigation just where its needed.
Ceres, like several other startups,started out with the notion to build a drone just for agricultural use. However, according to CEO and founder Founder Ashwin Madgavkar, the company quickly realized commercial farmers needed to cover thousands of acres,proving too big a job for most drones.
Instead, Madgavkar said, the company hasdeveloped a proprietary sensor and camera which pilots in traditional aircraft, like Cessnas, can fly over vast swathes of farmland every day.
Besides its sensors, the company has created image analyzing software that canzero in on just the vegetation, leaving out soil and shadows in post-processing analysis. We translate spectral signatures into whats happening on the ground, the CEO said. The company has worked closely with researchers and data from UC Davisto perfect its analytics.
Romulus Capital founder Krishna K. Gupta said Ceres stood out from other agtech players because it is using hyper spectral imaging to provide ground-level insights to farmers.Manyother companies rely ontheNDVI, thenormalized difference vegetation index for crop analysis. This provides ameasure of leaves per unit area. Cerescan get a finer grain detail on what a farmers crops, irrigation and nutrient profile looks like, Krishna said.
Ceres is already working with six out of ten of the worlds largest tree nut and vine growers with most of its work in California and Australia today, Madgavkarsaid. It provides imaging for at least 10% of the global almond industry now.
The company plans to use its Series A funding for hiring, expanding its sales and marketing efforts, and to adapt its analytics to help growers ofcorn, soy and other commodity crops in the Midwest, the CEO said.
Prior to raising its Series A round, Ceres attained $1 million in non-dilutive grant funding from the likes of water tech accelerator ImagineH2O, and the Elemental Excelerator,a non-profit backed by Laurene Powell Jobs Emerson Collective.
While regulation can hamper some startups, Madgavkar said its actually aiding demand for Ceres technology. Farmers are dealing with increased regulation whichprevents them from just applying a lot of chemicals and fertilizers like they used to, he said. Being able to look on a map, and quickly see where a crop is experiencing stress, or where the soil may be lacking nitrogen or potassium, helps them work within the new rules.