25 April 2022
EDE, the Netherlands: Tech company Corvus Drones develops and produces drones that can fly autonomously in greenhouses. The drones collect valuable data for crop monitoring. With this information, growers can produce products more efficiently and sustainably. For the further development of the drone and scaling up the marketing activities, Corvus Drones recently raised an investment from Navus Ventures, ECG Ventures and Oost NL.
Greenhouse horticulture is struggling with several challenges: Worldwide, the greenhouses acreage is growing by 5-10% per year, nursery operations are becoming increasingly complex, and there is a structural staff shortage. Drones offer a solution by automating various tasks. With the help of cameras and sensors, the Corvus drone can, for example, carry out seed germination counting or monitor crop growth. “In greenhouse horticulture, there is a great need for data concerning crop growth. For a grower, it is almost impossible to monitor the crop in every part of the greenhouse daily. More insight leads to fewer cultivation risks and a more efficient supply chain. This saves costs for growers and contributes to sustainable and efficient food production,” explains Frans-Peter Dechering, co-founder of Corvus Drones.
Corvus’ customers are growers or cultivation specialists from horticultural companies. They can subscribe to the drone services. The drone flies over or between the crop and makes recordings, and its software translates the images into useful information. The first customers are already using the services of Corvus Drones. “Horticultural companies have become so large that crop information is automatically necessary on a large scale. Our ambition is to make the drone application possible for every grower worldwide. This way, we also contribute to even more sustainable production chains,” explains Dechering.
For the development of this drone, we worked closely with several launching customers for the translation of theory into practice. And with application developers who create AI models for analysing the collected data, like Track 32, also based in Food Valley Wageningen. “Unique from our drone is that it navigates autonomously based on vision because GPS signals are too weak to use in a greenhouse. In addition, the drone must be able to ‘look’ precisely at young plants – that makes positioning a challenge.”
Oost NL has been involved in the company’s early phase through the ION+ program since 2019. This enabled the entrepreneurs to develop further and validate the technology. The drone is now ready for market introduction for young plants, pot plant growers and breeders. “With this new investment, we can optimise the drone, develop new applications and prepare the organisation for the further commercial roll-out of the product,” says Dechering.
Carl Heijne, senior investment manager Food at Oost NL: “Producers can use this drone to control production better and predict harvests more accurately. It reduces food waste. Dutch horticulture is seen worldwide as a leader in production and innovation. Companies like Corvus are essential to this. They form a bridge between knowledge institutions and growers by putting innovations on the market practically applicable and affordable way.” Oost NL invests from the Participation Fund Oost NL.
Jacco Zuijdweg, investment manager at ECG Ventures, says: “These drones collect a large amount of data from the crops. And more importantly: Corvus Drones works to convert this data into useful information for the growers. This gives growers easy and effective insight into the condition and growth of their crops. We are proud to be able to contribute to an important next step towards fully autonomous flying drones in horticulture.”
Jaap Zijlstra, investment manager of Navus Ventures, says: “Corvus Drones provides a valuable service to growers in greenhouse horticulture who embrace digitisation and automation to improve their business. Not only delivering the data but also bringing it to a tangible follow-up with their partners. This investment fits perfectly within our strategy to support innovative start-ups that contribute to the transition to sustainable food and energy.”