We just launched our Portugal Chapter. Discover more Portuguese startups here!X
PITCH
The world’s first sharing platform for farm drone technology, Farm Friend is already eyeing a yet bigger role: as a comprehensive, one-stop agritech services provider.
WHY?

Inefficient pest-control methods

Manual spraying is 15–80 times less efficient than drone spraying, wasting pesticide and water.

Messy farm drone sector

Drone operators aren’t regulated yet, which leads to lack of standards, cutthroat competition.

Hazardous for farm workers

Manual spraying exposes human workers to pesticides, which can have harmful health effects.

MARKET

RMB 12.8 billion

Forecast value of China’s agriculture drone spraying market by 2021

China has over 120 million hectares of farmed land. Its agriculture drone spraying market is forecast to reach RMB 3.5 billion in 2017, with exponential growth through 2021.

PRODUCT
Online platform offering drone spraying and precision agriculture services by connecting drone operators with farmers. A drone carries 10 kg of pesticide and flies 1.5 to 2 meters above crops at a speed of 5 to 8 meters per second. Via website or app. Company also offers SaaS and dynamic

Read more

Online platform offering drone spraying and precision agriculture services by connecting drone operators with farmers. A drone carries 10 kg of pesticide and flies 1.5 to 2 meters above crops at a speed of 5 to 8 meters per second. Via website or app. Company also offers SaaS and dynamic pricing for agro-dealers.
BUSINESS MODEL
An online platform connecting farm drone operators with farmers, Farm Friend partners local agro-dealers to amass bookings and rapidly expand its national network. Drone spraying is its entry point into the sector. As stickiness increases and farmers modernize, Farm Friend wants to be their one-stop tech platform, penetrating all segments.

Read more

For drone operators

Farm Friend began by putting together several UAV teams and pilots and renting UAVs at lower rate to interested farmers. When bookings grew and its name spread, it invited more operators to register on the platform, expanding its national network expanded.

For UAV teams, they benefit from a stable order-book and acquire spraying strategies from the platform, which enhances their operating efficiency.

Also, using a centralized booking platform like Farm Friend allows these operators to move around the country, wherever and whenever their services are needed (since peak agricultural season in an area lasts just two to three months) – reducing their idling rates.

Farm Friend standardizes working processes and criteria for the UAV teams or individual pilots on its platform. E.g., a UAV can finish spraying one mu (about 0.0667 hectare) of land in 3 minutes.

For agro-dealers and farmers

Farm Friend established local branches in provinces to meet regional policies. To penetrate cities and counties, it partners with local agro-dealers to gain access to farmers, while in return, it helps agro-dealers improve their range of services and pesticide supply, as well as in risk control.

It also offers technology solutions for agro-dealers, such as order management SaaS and dynamic pricing on products from wholesalers.

Farmers can book a drone through these agro-dealers or directly using the Farm Friend app.

Farm Friend charges a service fee of RMB 10 per mu (0.0667 hectare).

Farmers also receive useful farming information from the platform, such as warnings about pest or disease outbreaks, diagnosis and recommendations.

TIMELINE

  • Launch
  • Growth
  • Recent Developments
  • Future Plans
  • 2016 - Launched Farm Friend; won US$4 million in financing; expanded to 200 drone teams; DJI and Beijing TT Aviation Technology partnerships.

    Read in detail:

    The launch

    While working on a drone startup in 2014, Yu Yang discovered the commercial potential of drones in farming, as the unmanned vehicles (UAVs) could be deployed on a large scale across farmlands. Also, drone manufacturers, pilots and farmers lacked a common platform for liaising and coordination.

    February, Yu launched Farm Friend to provide agricultural drone services in precision agriculture and spraying.

    • Began with a pilot in Xiangyang, Hubei.

    Products and services

    August, app for drone pilots (beta version) launched.

    Expansion

    April, won its first order in (pesticide) spraying for 500 mu (roughly 33.35 hectares) of land.

    June, 200 UAV teams joined Farm Friend.

    November, established long-term partnership with DJI, the world’s biggest drone maker.

    December, entered long-term partnership with Beijing TT Aviation Technology.

    • Included a talent program that connects drone service providers with farmers, e.g., students of TT Aviation can get orders directly on Farm Friend’s platform.

    Fundings

    March, received US$1 million in seed funding led by Shunwei Capital.

    July, raised US$3 million in Pre-A funding led by GGV Capital, followed by Shunwei Capital and ZhenFund. The money was mainly used for market and team expansion.

  • 2017- Acquired agri-internet company Irrinet-tech; joined Microsoft Accelerator; national farming subsidies program extended to drone purchases; RMB 50 million in Series A financing.

    Read in detail:

    Expansion
    Selected as one of 15 startups to join Microsoft Accelerator Beijing's 10th cohort.
    Fundings
    June, raised RMB 50 million (about US$7.2 million) in Series A funding led by Gobi Partners, with participation from GGV Capital, Shunwei Capital, ZhenFund and Yunqi Partners.
    M&As

    June, completed its buyout of Irrinet-tech, an agriculture internet company.

    • The entire team of Irrinet-tech, including units lirrigation.com.cn and shuifei168.com, became part of Farm Friend.

    Policy changes

    January, national agricultural mechanization subsidies program expanded to include drone purchases.

  • Recent Developments

    Raised an 8-digit-USD Pre-B financing round in January 2018 from existing investors, for market expansion.

    Operating in 10 provinces, with branches in 8 of them.

    With 3,000+ registered drone operating teams (equivalent to 10,000+ pilots), 10,000+ drones on its platform.

    Total bookings cover over 8 million mu (533,333.33 hectares); repeat purchase rate of 82%

    Team of 140 staff.



  • Future Plans

    In 2018, focus on expanding coverage in the 10 provinces where it already operates.

    Become the most competitive and influential one-stop service platform in modern agricultural production, the Didi of farming.
Updated: 10/2017

Related Insights

f