Richfield-based Sentera, one of several emerging makers of drones, sensors and software for America’s farmers, is gaining altitude.
CEO, Eric Taipale, an engineer who started working on drones a generation ago for defense contractor Lockheed, said relationships with distributors such as huge farm-equipment manufacturer John Deere have been critical.
“We just hit our 350th storefront and probably two-thirds of them have been through John Deere, Taipale said. "And we are integrated into their ‘digital agriculture’ [software] platform, the John Deere Operations Center. “We are about three times as big as we were last year.”
Privately held Sentera, which contracts for manufacturing with Rushford-based Riverbend Electronics, expects to sell up to 1,000 drones this year and post sales of around $5 million.
Sentera makes a fixed-wing drone called the Phoenix. And its software can be used with other drones, including some consumer models sold at Target and elsewhere. The drones, controlled by smartphone or other mobile device, check for moisture levels and crop health on predetermined routes.
Sentera, which employs 24, last year raised the final $2 million of an $8.5 million inaugural equity round from ag-related investors that it used for product development and adding several jobs.

The company also plans to raise more equity capital this year.  
Sentera is able to run a streamlined operation thanks to outsourced manufacturing and partnering with established-dealer networks.

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