DroneTech Startup Poladrone Raises US$4.29 million in seed round to accelerate drone revolution in Southeast Asia

Tuesday 26 October 2021 14:29
Labour shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of the technology in Malaysia, while Thailand plans to triple its headcount in line with international expansion strategy
DroneTech Startup Poladrone Raises US$4.29 million in seed round to accelerate drone revolution in Southeast Asia

Poladrone, an end-to-end drone solutions provider with presence in Malaysia and Thailand, has raised US$4.29 million (approximately THB 140 million) in a Seed round led by Wavemaker Partners, one of Southeast Asia's leading venture capital firms.

Other investors who participated in the round include the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), a strategic investment fund wholly owned by the Malaysian government, ZB Capital Limited (a Hong Kong-based principal investment firm), Sui Ling Cheah (Operating Partner of Wavemaker Partners), and other angel investors.

Poladrone launched Oryctes in August 2020 as the world's first precision spot spraying drone to introduce an efficient and automated solution for the local agriculture industries with focus on large scale oil palm plantations. 

In oil palm plantations, rhinoceros beetles are known as a serious pest to immature palms, affecting their photosynthetic ability and considerably reducing fruit yield. Frequent pesticide spraying exercises are required to maintain plant health. Spraying activities using knapsack sprayers and tractors are both labour-intensive and detrimental to workers' health. The labour shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of the technology and Poladrone has quadrupled their team from 20 to over 80 in less than a year to cope with the demand in the region.

Poladrone has also recently launched its Mist Drone - a blanket spraying agriculture drone that is suited for open field crops such as paddy, sugar, and corn.

In Thailand, Poladrone has been present since early 2018 and built a strong customer base with drone users in the industrial and agriculture sectors. The newly launched Mist drone has already been well received in Thailand, particularly with rice farmers across the country. With this new funding, the company plans to triple its headcount in Thailand by next year to further grow its international footprint.

 "The funding round will allow us to scale up operations to better serve customers across the region, and to attract top talents to further improve our products," said Cheong Jin Xi (JX), Poladrone's Founder and CEO.

Poladrone is setting up Service Centres in agricultural towns to offer "Sales, Service, and Spare Parts" in Malaysia and Thailand, and is looking to expand to other markets in the region, specifically Indonesia. The Service Centres will also act as Centres of Excellence, where industrial training and knowledge sharing will be conducted to boost the adoption of drone technology. 

"Many of our customers rely on drones to earn a living, and downtime is detrimental to their livelihood. As most operations happen away from metropolitan areas, our Service Centres will provide better accessibility to customers to quickly maintain or repair their equipment. We are extremely excited to partner with the team at Wavemaker and MTDC who share the same vision, putting our customers' needs at the heart of our growth strategy," says Cheong. 

"It has been amazing to see the Poladrone team's approach to building localized solutions that are highly efficient, cost-effective, and tailored to plantations of all sizes. Poladrone now works with eight out of 10 of the biggest palm oil plantations in Malaysia - an impressive feat that gives us confidence to back the team and their vision of propelling Southeast Asia's agriculture industry," said Gavin Lee, General Partner at Wavemaker Partners.

"We are very excited to further grow our team, products and footprint across the region to accelerate the adoption of new advanced agriculture tools like our Oryctes and Mist drones", says Aron Schindler, Poladrone's Managing Director in Thailand.

"Agriculture is one of the backbones of Thailand's economy, employing roughly 40% of the country's workforce. With the government's strategic focus on agriculture 4.0, we are seeing significant growth in the use of smart farming technologies, automation, and drones. Poladrone is in a great position with the right team, funding and products to positively contribute to this goal to advance Thailand's agriculture sector into a modern industry," he added. 

About Ploadrone

Founded in 2016, Poladrone is an all-in-one drone solutions provider that simplifies dangerous and demanding tasks across a range of industries through innovative and cost-efficient applications of autonomous drone technology. Based in Malaysia and Thailand, Poladrone offerings cut across various verticals - Agriculture, Enterprise, Services and Academy.

Poladrone Agriculture is the pioneer of point-to-point agriculture spraying solutions. It designs and develops its autonomous agriculture drones in-house, namely Oryctes & Mist Drone, to enable the agriculture community to manage farms and plantations effectively. Using drones for data collection, Poladrone Agriculture processes and analyzes plant health, canopy heights and more to provide recommendations and preventive actions to oil palm plantation owners. 

Poladrone Enterprise works with global brands such as DJI, Emlid, FLIR, Sentera, Micasense and more to provide various enterprise drone products for commercial use, boosting cost and time efficiency in day-to-day operations workflows.

Keeping operations safety in mind, Poladrone Academy - Drone Academy Asia provides commercial drone training to individuals and organisations to effectively implement drone programs in existing workflows.

More than just toys for the enthusiast, Poladrone believes drones are the workhorses of the future. Poladrone Services specialises in aerial mapping and surveying. It also provides turnkey solutions such as crop health detection, visual inspection, and thermal inspection.

Oryctes

Named after the infamous oil palm pest, Oryctes drones provide fast and consistent pest protection for a wide variety of crops. Using the unique aerial capability of drones, Oryctes offers automated, cost-effective and highly scalable agriculture spraying for farms and plantations of all sizes.

Oryctes is the innovative solution to the rhinoceros beetle (kumbang tanduk) problem as the first drone custom-made for oil palm application. A common but hated sight on oil palm estates, rhinoceros beetles feed voraciously on young oil palm shoots, which causes stunted oil palm growth and often crop death.

Annually, an estimated RM40.25 billion (25%) of Malaysia's national palm oil yield is lost to the damage caused by Rhinoceros beetle pest attacks, a significant productivity loss in a global industry valued at over RM161 billion.

Oryctes has proven to provide more reliable oil palm protection than other pest control methods in the industry while significantly reducing chemical exposure to the environment and humans.

Using  Real Time Kinematics (RTK) positioning, on-edge AI and a custom nozzle setup, Oryctes spot sprays with centimetre-level precision, making it perfect for application on tree crops such as oil palm.

Mist Drone

Mist Drone is a blanket spraying drone that provides superior wide-area coverage at unmatched efficiency. Ideal for blanket application on paddy, farmland and open field crops, it delivers premium crop protection at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods while making spraying much faster, easier and safer for farmers and the environment.

Mist Drone can be adapted quickly to suit each customer's preference with customisable nozzles, a variety of tank sizes, and different frame types. Equipped with intelligent features such as obstacle avoidance and flow meter, Mist Drone gives farmers complete control over the amount of chemicals sprayed in each area, significantly reducing chemical wastage and exposure to the environment and humans.

Mist Drone is manufactured locally and supported by Poladrone's Service Centres (sales, service and spare parts) in agriculture towns across Malaysia. The Service Centres provides service support, scheduled maintenance, and spare parts replacement to ensure high product quality at all times, giving users peace of mind to use it in their daily spraying workflows.

MIST stands for Mobile Intelligent Sustainable Tech - these drones make the ideal trusted partners for farmers to achieve maximum efficiency and effectiveness in agriculture spraying.

Service Centers (3S - Sales, Service & Spare Parts)

Poladrone's regional branches serve as the Service Centres (3S - Sales, Service and Spare Parts) in major agriculture towns throughout Malaysia and Thailand, and are looking to expand across the region to Indonesia. The Service Centres are conveniently located near end-users to provide service supports, scheduled maintenance, and spare part replacements. The Service Centres will also act as Centres of Excellence (CoE) offering industrial training programs to equip future pilots with the necessary knowledge and understanding to operate a drone safely.

About Wavemaker Partners

Wavemaker Partners is Southeast Asia's go-to VC firm investing in enterprise and deep tech startups. Since 2012, it has backed 140+ companies, of which 120+ (85%) are in enterprise and deep tech. The firm has US$180 million in AUM (Asset Under Management) across three funds, and has seen 10 exits valued at close to US$700 million. Recent exits include TradeGecko's acquisition by Intuit, and Moka's and Coins.ph's acquisitions by Gojek. Today, 70% of Wavemaker's active portfolio startups are aligned with at least one UNDP Sustainable Development Goal. Portfolio startups include Borneo, ecoSPIRITS, eFishery, Growsari, GudangAda, and Silent Eight.

Source: All About PR Thailand

DroneTech Startup Poladrone Raises US$4.29 million in seed round to accelerate drone revolution in Southeast Asia