Sentera LLC, a maker of drones and related software for farming, said Wednesday it has closed the final portion in an $8.5 million round of new venture capital.
The Richfield-based company also launched a revision of its main ag data software that allows customers to plot the path for drones over fields.
Sentera concluded on the final $2 million of an $8.5 million Series A round, which came chiefly from strategic investors in agribusiness. The firm will use the money for more hiring and to ramp up product development.
“There is always going to be a discussion of what’s next, whether we do a Series B or hold tight for awhile,” said Eric Taipale, the company’s chief executive. “There’s no urgency.”
He said Sentera is seeing growth despite a spending slowdown by farmers, who are controlling spending after several seasons of good weather and high yields lowered crop prices and squeezed margins.
The company focuses on making drones practical for farmers. While it makes a fixed-wing drone called the Sentera Phoenix, its software can be used with other drones, including some consumer models sold at major retailers.
Taipale said the consumer drones are surprisingly effective.
“It’s really amazing to go into Target and see what kind of capability can be had for less than $1,000,” he said.
The flight-planning feature that just went into Sentera’s AgVault software rounds out that product’s core functions.
With the software on a smartphone or other mobile device, a farmer can choose the drone’s altitude, sensor configuration, overlap, sideslip and exactly where it should fly. The drone can be launched from within the app, fly the predetermined route and automatically return.
Routes can be saved, and, with repeat flights at various intervals, farmers can track changes in the health of crops over a growing season.
“There is still specialized sensor technology and software that a farmer or agronomist needs to make money” from owning a drone, Taipale said. “That still takes quite a bit of skill and effort to produce and is what differentiates us.”