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Innovators unable to drum up support

By Hu Yongqi | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-25 07:19

Shaanxi Guard Agriculture Technology Ltd was founded in October to produce drones that can detect pests in fields. However, like many small startups, the company is struggling to find investors.

The company has produced prototype drones that photograph crops such as grapes and kiwi fruits to detect pests, thereby helping to improve yields and the quality of produce, but so far no one has offered the company any funding for the project. The drones are expected to retail at about 10,000 yuan ($1,480) each.

In large farms, it's difficult to detect pests, but the company's experiments have indicated that the drones, which use spectrum photography, can provide more accurate results than traditional monitoring via remote sensing.

Once the pests have been identified, the drones are used to spray insecticides that will kill them.

"We have invented high-altitude spectrum cameras; they are the core hardware for the drones. The drones are easy to operate, and we work with other agricultural companies to provide solutions and kill pests," said Tuo Menglang, one of the company's managers.

Currently, Shaanxi Guard is operating on capital provided by its three founders, who are continuing to search for investors.

"The founders' money is not sustainable, and outside financing is the only way to keep the company running," Tuo said. "But many investors give us the cold shoulder when they learn that we only employ seven people."

Su Baofeng, one of the founders and an associate professor at the Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Shaanxi province, has visited Japan to learn about similar drones.

At present, many farms are family-run concerns, but as consolidation takes place in the sector and farms grow in size, Su believes the company's drones will be vital to ensuring greater productivity.

"When large farms dominate the sector, the market potential for our drones will be enormous and they will be in great demand," he said.

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