With 400 million trees on its platform, Israel’s SeeTree uses tools such as drones, satellites, IoT sensors and weather information to ‘digitise trees’ to track their health and productivity.
Founded in 2017, the Tel Aviv headquartered company has operations in Brazil, US, Mexico, South Africa, and a development centre in Ukraine. Its team comprises over 80 global experts in AI, machine learning, and agronomy.
The company has raised over US$60 million to become a leader in data-driven tree production optimisation. It currently works with citrus, palm, avocados, almonds, eucalyptus trees, industrial forests and forests for carbon sequestration. Thanks to the latest funding round, it plans to add another five to seven crops including soy in the next two years, and expand its marketing, sales activities, and R&D efforts in key territories, including North America, LATAM, Ukraine and APAC.
“We collect data using drone imagery, satellite imagery, smartphone photos and other sensors,” CEO Israel Talpaz told AgTechNavigator. “Then we analyse all of the data with machine-learning AI and computer vision technology that we developed and provide web-based and mobile based applications so the farmers can address the issues and run their day-to-day missions.”
By leveraging the most powerful innovations available, he told us, it gives growers transparency and insights into the health and production of their trees. This allows them to optimise operations in the field and improve return on investment. “The data and missions are run on easy-to-use smartphone-based applications,” he stressed. “Everybody can use them.”
Digitising tree management can boost farming efficiency, he claimed, by increasing manpower throughput by 20-30%, and reducing chemical inputs by 10-20%. “It eliminates major farming mistakes, reduces time to action by 50% and increases yields over time,” he told us.
Comparing trees to factories
“Trees are huge factories that must be digitised to be properly managed,” he said. For example, trees are "production units" with inputs (water, fertilisers, labour, etc) and outputs (the fruit for instance) every year. As we would not imagine a modern factory without a digitised management capability to measure the performance of equipment and quickly fix malfunctions, the same goes with farms and trees.
“The problem we address is the lack of data and digitisation of field data and specifically tree-centric field data which will not enable growers of trees to optimize their production,” he explained. “This means that valuable resources such as manpower, water, and chemicals are wasted and tree productivity – for food and timber, for example – is far from its potential. Growers lose profits, we gain less food, and the environment is affected in a negative way. This is a lose, lose, lose situation. Tree-centric data and digitisation, are creating a transformation of tree farming.”
SeeTree's mission is therefore to assist tree growers optimise crops by providing them with an end-to-end data-driven service and products that enable them to increase the efficiency of their operations and the productivity of their trees over time.
Using drone imagery to detect parasites
For example, bindweed is a parasitic plant that can wrap around trees and reduce yield by up to 100%. SeeTree applies a machine-learning based detection classifier on drone imagery to detect these parasites on the trees as early as possible. Growers can track this is information on a smartphone. “It can reduce the infestation levels in farms by 25%, leading to millions of dollars of additional yields in fruit,” according to Talpaz.
“We can also help farmers boost under-performing trees by 25-50% and guide them to replace dead or missing trees, thus gaining 100% from newly planted trees.”
The ‘holy grail’ of farming intelligence: optimisation
The company currently manages about 400 million trees, over 1,000,000 acres. Its goal for 2024 is to double the amount of trees and acres and reach 1 billion trees in early 2025. “We are aiming to add high-level detection capabilities to detect harsh diseases that affect trees such as HLB and to better detect nutrient deficiencies,” the CEO revealed. “Additionally, we are constantly working to better assess yields on the trees throughout the growing season, to guide farmers to act fast to reduce losses and optimise their yields.”
He added: “Our unique value proposition is enabling the ‘holy grail’ of farming intelligence: optimisation. This is based on our holistic approach with regards to field and tree data, coupled with our strong AI and engineering technology capabilities.
“Seeing thousands of field workers worldwide using their smartphones daily, while their managers make decisions and run their complex operations based on our platform, is the best reward possible. We are totally committed to continuing our journey, helping our customers and expanding our ‘Operating System for Trees’.”
The Series C funding round was jointly led by new investors: HSBC Asset Management and EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development). Additional new investors joining the round were OurCrowd, and SmartAgro, with continued support from existing investors including Hanaco Ventures (after leading the A round of the company), Mindest Ventures, Uri Levine’s TFK, Orbia Ventures and Citrosuco (one of the largest growers of citrus in the world).
“We are excited to support the team as it continues to revolutionise digital farming and precision agriculture,” said Bruno Lusic, from EBRD’s Venture Capital team, an early and growth stage equity investor for technology companies out of emerging Europe. “Leveraging artificial intelligence and computer vision, SeeTree’s platform is transforming farmers livelihoods, by increasing their productivity and having a positive impact on the environment.”