Yamaha investment fund ploughs A$11 million into agtech startup

Artificial intelligence (AI) startup, The Yield, looks set for rapid growth after an A$11 million injection from Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley (Yamaha Motor Ventures).

The Yield’s flagship product, Sensing+, combines field sensors and AI algorithms to help farmers and specialist crop growers to better understand micro-climates. This enables growers to increase yield by optimising planting, irrigation, pesticide spraying and cropping activities.

Announcing the investment, Nolan Paul, Partner and Global Ag Tech Lead for Yamaha Motor Ventures, says The Yield’s ‘impressive’ AI technology delivers actionable agronomic insights to the specialty crop industry.

‘Our strategic investment approach to the global agriculture sector, centred on precision solutions and hyperlocal management of crops, led us to The Yield,’ he says.

Paul adds that his firm ‘scrutinised the global agtech sector as the food supply chain, particularly specialty crop production, is ripe for disruption.

‘Based on our domain analysis, we selected The Yield as a best-in-class solution in delivering predictive insights for specialty crops […] The Yield is poised to be The Climate Corp of horticulture, and we look forward to supporting the team’s strategic plan to scale its data-driven solution to the global specialty crop market.’

The Yield’s founder, Ros Harvey, says some investors see agriculture as a ‘resilient’ industry whose stakeholders are searching for efficiencies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review.

‘Multinational food companies want to de-risk everything they do as much as possible, and data enables them to do that,’ says Harvey.

Harvey says the proceeds from the latest funding will be used for product development and to accelerate The Yield’s global patent strategy in targeted jurisdictions.

‘We know who our customer is and how to deliver return on investment from our solutions. We have deep AI capability and global patent rights in our ability to predict microclimates using AI – for example, creating in-tunnel weather predictions,’ she says.

‘We are halving error rates for customers in yield predictions, including in challenging crops such as berries. This helps our customers achieve better price realisation as well as managing their labour and supply chain optimisation.’ ASX-listed Costa Group is one company using The Yield’s Sensing+ technology to help grow berries in polythene tunnels.

German engineering firm Bosch, an investor since 2016, took the opportunity to increase its investment in The Yield, taking its total investment to A$13.3 million.

Commenting on the new funding, President of Bosch Oceania, Gavin Smith, observes the global potential for Australian agtech companies.

‘Agriculture 4.0 is coming of age, and Australia is poised to play a leading role thanks to companies like The Yield,’ he says.

‘Bosch’s further investment in The Yield reflects our confidence that they have something quite unique, and are now gaining serious traction with corporate customers.’

Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory Silicon Valley (Yamaha Motor Ventures) is a subsidiary of Yamaha Motor Company. Founded as an investment fund in 2015, it manages its parent company’s US$100 million investment fund.

Founded in 2014, The Yield uses AI and sensors to improve productivity in specialty horticulture and aquaculture. It was selected as a THRIVE Top 50 Scaling and Visionary Agtech Company in 2020.

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