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Halifax’s SkySquirrel raises $1 million for crop analytics drone technology

Halifax’s SkySquirrel Technologies closed a $1-million investment round, with $500,000 from Nova Scotia early stage venture capital organization Innovacorp and $500,000 from “an undisclosed Ontario-based private investor” for its drone crop analytics technology aimed at monitoring and improving crop health.

Focusing on the $85-billion global wine market, SkySquirrel’s technology surveys and collects data on crops, detecting diseases as early as possible and helping farmers understand how to improve growing conditions.

“This investment will let us ramp up to launch the next-generation of our product before the current year’s growing season is in full swing,” said SkySquirrel co-founder and CEO Richard Van der Put. “We’ll also be able to hit the gas on pursuing new customers in the US and Europe.”

With existing clients already in Canada, France, Spain, Switzerland, Chile and China, SkySquirrel has also signed a partnership agreement with California’s VineView, Scientific Aerial Imaging, Inc., giving the company exclusive access to unique image processing capabilities for disease detection in vineyards.

“SkySquirrel has developed an outstanding aerial imaging solution for the high-value wine industry, and the technology has tremendous potential for other agricultural markets as well,” said Innovacorp investment manager for IT Andrew Ray. “We’re proud to back this strong team and technology.”

Founded in May 2012 in Cheticamp, Cape Breton, SkySquirrel was started by Dutch engineer Van der Put, who immigrated to Nova Scotia to work at Halifax Biomedical in Mabou, Cape Breton,  initially positioning SkySquirrel as a UAV company, for drones mounted with heat-sensitive cameras that could be used in rescue operations or for military purposes.

Today, however, the company’s focus is to help commercial vineyards improve crop yields and reduce costs, and to detect viruses such as leafroll disease and flavescence doree, which usually involves tearing out infected vines before the disease spreads to the entire field.

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