DroneTech startup Poladrone raises US$4.29 mil in seed round to accelerate drone revolution in SEA
Poladrone, an end-to-end drone solutions provider with presence in Malaysia and Thailand, has raised US$4.29 million (approximately THB 140 million) in a Seed round led by Wavemaker Partners, one of Southeast Asia’s leading venture capital firms.
Other investors who participated in the round include the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), a strategic investment fund wholly owned by the Malaysian government, ZB Capital Limited (a Hong Kong-based principal investment firm), and other angel investors.
Poladrone launched Oryctes in August 2020 as the world’s first precision spot spraying drone to introduce an efficient and automated solution for the local agriculture industries with focus on large scale oil palm plantations.
In oil palm plantations, rhinoceros beetles are known as a serious pest to immature palms, affecting their photosynthetic ability and considerably reducing fruit yield. Frequent pesticide spraying exercises are required to maintain plant health. Spraying activities using knapsack sprayers and tractors are both labour-intensive and detrimental to workers’ health. The labour shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of the technology and Poladrone has quadrupled their team from 20 to over 80 in less than a year to cope with the demand in the region.
In Thailand, Poladrone has been present since early 2018 and built a strong customer base with drone users in the industrial and agriculture sectors. The newly launched Mist drone has already been well received in Thailand, particularly with rice farmers across the country. With this new funding, the company plans to triple its headcount in Thailand by next year to further grow its international footprint.
“The funding round will allow us to scale up operations to better serve customers across the region, and to attract top talents to further improve our products,” said Cheong Jin Xi (JX), Poladrone’s Founder and CEO.
Poladrone is setting up Service Centres in agricultural towns to offer “Sales, Service, and Spare Parts” in Malaysia and Thailand, and is looking to expand to other markets in the region, specifically Indonesia. The Service Centres will also act as Centres of Excellence, where industrial training and knowledge sharing will be conducted to boost the adoption of drone technology.
“Many of our customers rely on drones to earn a living, and downtime is detrimental to their livelihood. As most operations happen away from metropolitan areas, our Service Centres will provide better accessibility to customers to quickly maintain or repair their equipment. We are extremely excited to partner with the team at Wavemaker and MTDC who share the same vision, putting our customers’ needs at the heart of our growth strategy,” says Cheong.
“It has been amazing to see the Poladrone team's approach to building localized solutions that are highly efficient, cost-effective, and tailored to plantations of all sizes. Poladrone now works with eight out of 10 of the biggest palm oil plantations in Malaysia - an impressive feat that gives us confidence to back the team and their vision of propelling Southeast Asia’s agriculture industry,” said Gavin Lee, General Partner at Wavemaker Partners.
“We are very excited to further grow our team, products and footprint across the region to accelerate the adoption of new advanced agriculture tools like our Oryctes and Mist drones”, says Aron Schindler, Poladrone’s Managing Director in Thailand.
“Agriculture is one of the backbones of Thailand’s economy, employing roughly 40% of the country’s workforce. With the government’s strategic focus on agriculture 4.0, we are seeing significant growth in the use of smart farming technologies, automation, and drones. Poladrone is in a great position with the right team, funding and products to positively contribute to this goal to advance Thailand’s agriculture sector into a modern industry,” he added.
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