A Northumberland-based AgriTech firm has secured a six-figure investment and received innovation grant funding to transform how farmers and rural landowners manage their assets, following investment from the North of Tyne Combined Authority.
Drone Ag established its business delivering aerial crop scouting, spraying, and mapping using drones and smart data-analytics and has gone on to secure a mix of Innovation funding to expand their operation into developing a drone-based solution to soil sampling.
The company secured a North of Tyne Innovation Recovery Grant in September 2021 to part-fund the development of a prototype for a more technologically advanced drone to carry the equipment needed to extract and return soil samples.
The Grant investment of £5,500 towards the project has enabled the team to secure an additional £145,000 from Innovate UK as part of the Regional Angel Investment Accelerator programme, with £200,000 of match funding secured from angel investors after pitching at a Newcastle Angel Hub pitch event.
The investment completes a total fundraise of almost £800,000 by Drone Ag, which has also raised investment via crowd-funding platform, crowdcube.
With product designs at the ready, this innovation project is geared up to deliver a commercially viable soil sampling solution, with launch to market planned for early 2023.
Jack Wrangham, Founder of Drone Ag said “The rural economy is at the very heart of all we do. Our team live and work in rural Northumberland. We understand the issues facing our people and place and have developed our technology to ensure we can effectively take on challenges from soil quality to better land management and food security.
“Currently, the pressure is on farmers and landowners to source new energy efficient alternatives to driving miles in diesel powered tractors. They also need to be able to learn from intelligent data streams about the real-time health of their soil. Our work will help them to deliver these tasks with greater efficiency, saving time, money and with a smaller environmental impact. The investment we’ve received will help us to scale our project quickly, and we’re spending this year focused on bringing our commercial offer to market.”
The private investment in Drone Ag was secured following a pitch event delivered jointly by Newcastle Angel Hub and NorthInvest. Together, connect investors with businesses seeking investment at all stages of growth. The Newcastle Angel Hub is delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork, which is part-funded by ERDF.
Estelle Blanks, CEO at Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “Drone Ag are a brilliant example of how local and national funding intervention can leverage private investment to accelerate innovation and enable regional companies to grow. This innovation successfully takes already existing technology and adapts it’s use with a clear commercial benefit. I’m delighted we’ve been able to support them in securing a mix of innovation funding and private investment and look forward to seeing where this takes the company in future.”
Jordan Dargue, Head of Access to Finance at Innovation SuperNetwork and Board Director at NorthInvest, said: “Drone Ag is a great example of the quality of innovative businesses that we have operating in the North East. As soon as Jack presented Drone Ag to the NorthInvest & Newcastle Angel Hub investor networks, there was an immediate interest in the opportunity. The extra validation behind the project’s innovation, in the form of the £145,000 Regional Angel Investment Accelerator grant, was a key driver in attracting investment to the company. This demonstrates the importance of the regional angel programme in not only amplifying the impact we can have on Northern entrepreneurs, but also the impact in bringing regional angel investors together to invest in early-stage businesses.”
The Regional Angel Investment Accelerator is administered across the North on behalf of Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, by a consortium including the Innovation SuperNetwork, North Invest and UKBAA, it is led by the North East BIC. The aim of the funding programme is to increase the pool of regional angel investors prepared to consider investing in earlier stage, ambitious, innovative businesses in the regions.
The North of Tyne Innovation Recovery Grant is part of the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s package of support to businesses dealing with the impact of COVID-19. It is designed to enable a green and sustainable recovery by funding projects that have potential to safeguard and create new jobs, build a more inclusive economy, and contribute towards the net zero agenda. It is delivered by experienced grant fund managers, NBSL in partnership with the Innovation SuperNetwork.