Precision AI uses drone-based technology to allow farmers to target individual weeds, only spraying herbicide where it is needed and avoiding crops. The Regina-based start-up says precise application and drone technology can save farmers up to $52 per acre per growing season and reduce pesticide use by up to 95%.
This type of technology is one that Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) believes has the power to transform the world as industries pivot to more sustainable solutions. That is why the independent federal foundation is part of a group that recently backed Precision AI with $20 million in equity and grant funding.
Largest funder of climate tech small and medium businesses
SDTC identifies and funds Canadian companies that are developing climate technology solutions that will lead the transition to a zero-carbon, zero-waste economy. SDTC is the largest funder of small and medium climate tech businesses in Canada. Since 2001, the organization has invested more than $1.38 billion in 536 companies across a variety of sectors including transportation, waste management, power generation and forestry.
SDTC invests in Canadian entrepreneurs at every stage: with seed funding to identify early-stage innovations, to start-up support to help entrepreneurs develop their innovations and reach their target market, to scale-up investments to advance businesses through to early commercialization. Canadian companies do not have to pay back these investments and SDTC does not take any equity in the company or ownership of intellectual property.
“We want to give a boost to early-stage companies to help grow and scale here in Canada,” says Zoë Kolbuc, Vice President of Partnerships and Ecosystems at SDTC, adding that climate tech is much broader than most people realize. “Many think of electric vehicles or solar or wind power. But one area where we are seeing tremendous growth is in data-enabled climate tech, using AI, software solutions and the Internet of Things. These technologies are being applied across a wide variety of sectors, from shipping, to construction, to agriculture.”
In December, Canada joined a growing list of countries and large multinational companies who have committed to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. These commitments have created unprecedented global demand for sustainable solutions that will enable industries to adapt to a low carbon future.
Delivering environmental and economic benefits
One area where SDTC sees significant growth potential is agricultural technology. This includes precision agriculture, such as Precision AI’s drone technology. Precision technologies aim to increase crop yields and profitability while decreasing use of inputs like water, fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides.
“These technologies can provide good economic value for the agricultural producer and reduce significant negative environmental impacts by enabling more efficient use of resources and tighter control of farming inputs,” says Patrick Russell, Environmental Research Analyst at SDTC.
Russell says another promising area is advanced farm equipment, which automates operations like seeding, fertilizing and harvesting. The autonomous machines created by Vancouver-based Ecoation, is a good example of how the use of sensors, drones or robotics can help famers to gather real-time data to maximize efficient use of pesticides and other inputs and generate greater crop yields at a lower cost.
Regenerative farming technologies is a third area with significant market potential. Technologies that enable regenerative farming can improve the land by revitalizing the soil, while improving, food production and farmers’ incomes.
“Regenerative farming is very new in Canada,” says Russell. “It is more productive than any other type of farming and seeks to maximize the ecological health of the field for significantly better soils and farming conditions, leading to healthier, more productive and desirable crops and livestock.”
Ms. Kolbuc says many entrepreneurs, such as those in ag-tech, may not even know they could be eligible for support from SDTC. “We are always looking for companies to fund,” she says. “There are amazing entrepreneurs out there with innovative ideas to create a more sustainable world. We want to help bring their innovations to market and take their business to the next level.”