Barking up the right tree: Israeli startup SeeTree aims at better fruit yield

Barking up the right tree: Israeli startup SeeTree aims at better fruit yield

Tel Aviv firm combines intelligence obtained from drones, ground sensors and samples to provide farmers with data on individual trees and tree clusters

A SeeTree drone flying over fields (Courtesy)
A SeeTree drone flying over fields (Courtesy)

Tel Aviv-based startup SeeTree said Wednesday it was launching a new service that will provide crop growers with “deep insights” into the health and productivity of every single one of their trees.

The company combines intelligence it collects from drones equipped with high-resolution, multi-dimensional sensing imagery technology, ground sensors and samples collected by teams on the ground to provide customers with data on individual trees and tree clusters as an ongoing service.

“We have built the world’s first intelligence network for trees and permanent crops,” said Barak Hachamov, chairman and co-founder of the startup in a phone interview.

Most of the decisions made by farmers are based on what they see and their intuition, he said. But farmers have to oversee thousands and sometimes millions of  trees. “They don’t have any data about how much fruit is on the trees,” for example. “We have fully digitilized this world and turned the trees into a digital entity, creating a medical file for trees.”

As the world’s population grows, farmers are using technology to “tease” more crops out of the ground. Increasingly, crop growers are using sensors to figure out what to grow, when and where to grow it, and how to increase yields. The trend is part of the recent growth of precision agriculture technology that is expected to reach $10 billion by 2023, according to data firm

“Agriculture is looking for disruption” because of the need to feed the planet, counter high labor costs and lower the use of chemicals, said Hachamov. SeeTree aims “to bring technology disruption into the world of tree farming,” the statement said.

The company aims to help the farmers identify disease, irrigation and fertility needs.

“We are only focusing on trees,” Hachamov said, because it is more complex to collect data from trees than from open field crops. Trees take years to grow, and some four to five years until fruit production. So if trees get diseased, the price is much steeper than if a seasonal crop gets destroyed, he explained.

A drone operator with a SeeTree UAV (Courtesy)

“We already have paying customers in California and in Brazil,” some of the biggest farmers in those locations, Hachamov said, though the company has been operating under the radar until Wednesday’s launch.

Along with the launch, SeeTree also said it has raised $15 million to date. A Series A round of $11.5 million was led by Tel Aviv-based VC fund Hanaco Ventures, with the additional participation of the investors of the seed round, including Canaan Partners Israel and Uri Levine, the co-founder of Waze, and his investor group, as well as iAngels and Mindset Ventures.

“Over the past 12-18 months, we focused our resources on perfecting the combination of artificial intelligence, machine-learning technology, and agronomic intelligence to provide growers with the data needed on a macro and micro level for optimized farming,” said SeeTree co-Founder and CEO Israel Talpaz in a statement.

Israeli startup SeeTree founders: left to right: Barak Hachamov, Israel Talpaz, Guy Morgenstern (Courtesy)

Talpaz, 33, is a former senior official in Israel’s defense establishment, where he specialized in intelligence and complex operations that required multi-disciplinary solutions. He comes from a family background in agriculture. His father, Prof. Hovav Talpaz, was a farmer, researcher, and pioneer in agri-tech in the US, at the Texas A&M University, and in Israel, at the Volcani Research Institute, an agricultural research operation.

Through his father, Talpaz “learned about the major problems and challenges that farmers face today. I realized that my previous experiences can be relevant to address these challenges,” he said in a Q&A statement provided by the firm.

The startup was founded in September 2017 by Talpaz, the chairman Hachamov and Guy Morgenstern, the chief technology officer, who has experience in research and development and a background in intelligence. Hachamov is a serial entrepreneur who is also working with Google in Silicon Valley to build an accelerator program for applied machine-learning startups, he said.

“Disruption in the agriculture industry was long overdue, and SeeTree is proving to be the solution that growers have long awaited,” said Uri Levine, one of the startup’s seed round investors. “The fast market conversion from trial to paying customers is a clear indication of the value that SeeTree brings.”

SeeTree will be using the new funds to grow its business, perfect its technology, and add additional components to its service, based on ongoing customer needs, the statement said.

The company has offices in California and Brazil, and has 40 employees including global experts in artificial intelligence and agronomy, the statement said.

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