Sentera CEO Eric Taipale

Sentera, the agricultural drone and data-analysis software firm that recently raised an inaugural round of equity capital from institutional investors, is building the management team.

“Our business has grown significantly every year,” CEO Eric Taipale said.

Richfield-based Sentera partners with product distributors such as John Deere and the seed business of Bayer Crop Sciences and Land O’Lakes to get its technology to farmers and describes itself as the leader of “real-time, in-season insights for digital agriculture.”

Joe Dunsmore, named Sentera’s chief strategy officer, a consultant in recent years, is former CEO of “internet-of-things” communication-device firm Digi International, and formerly worked at Lucent, US Robotics and AT&T.

Dan Gray has joined Sentera as chief growth officer, responsible for the company’s sales and its interface with product planning, lifecycle support, and customer success. Gray was previously the senior vice president of global sales and marketing for animal nutrition at QualiTech.

John Hudson, named Sentera’s chief operating officer, is responsible for finance, HR, production, operations and information technology. He was CFO for Syngenta North America Seeds.

“We still build sensors, but we have pivoted hard into machine learning and data sciences to take the data off those sensors and help the customers make use of it,” Taipale said. “We count plants, find weeds and predict yields, look at disease and nutrition. A couple years ago the customers would have had to determine that from the imagery. We now provide the value-added data analysis.

“We’re still focused on row crops of corn, soybeans and cotton, but we have increasingly focused on specialty and permanent crops such as citrus in Florida, almonds in Australia and California and strawberries in California. We considered them almost untapped markets.”

Taipale said Sentera’s revenue doubled to $5 million last year and should grow by up to 50% this year. The firm employs more than 50 people. It outsources manufacturing to a Minnesota contract-electronics maker.

Sentera drones, equipped with sensors and artificial-intelligence software, survey crops and produce reports that detail what water, fertilizer, weed control or other inputs are needed  where. The software essentially drives the tractor and irrigation systems.

The Richfield-based company recently raised what grew from an anticipated $14 million to $16.5 million in equity capital, its first outside round, from a group of food, bioscience and agriculture investment firms, including New York-based Continental Grain Co., Chicago-based S2G Ventures and Washington, D.C.-based Middleland Capital.

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