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Agricultural drone maker XAG raises US$182 million in funding round led by Baidu, SoftBank

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 16/11/2020 Coco Feng coco.feng@scmp.com
a airplane that is driving down a dirt road: An XAG drone plants rice seeds. Photo: Handout An XAG drone plants rice seeds. Photo: Handout

Agricultural drone maker XAG raised 1.2 billion yuan (US$181.6 million), the company announced on Monday, marking the largest funding round to date in China's agricultural technology industry.

Baidu Capital and SoftBank Vision Fund II led the investment round. Other investors included Kai-fu Lee's Sinovation Ventures and two funds linked to the Guangzhou government. The company's existing investors, Chengwei Capital and Mingtai Capital, also joined the round.

XAG's total valuation has not been made public.

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The company plans to use the capital to "increase its advantage in research, development and manufacturing", XAG founder Peng Bin said in a statement. The company will also "develop more smart agri-equipment" and "comprehensively build an XAG unmanned farm", he said.

Drone maker XAG in drive to automate rice farming in China

Founded under the name XAircraft in 2007, the Guangzhou-based drone maker rebranded in 2014 and grew to become a major developer of agri-tech products. XAG is now known for its agricultural drones that help with tasks such as seeding, spraying crops, fertilisation and plant protection. Other products include remote sensing drones and an unmanned ground vehicle that helps with protecting crops, scouting fields and delivering materials on farms.

The agricultural sector has emerged as a huge opportunity for drone makers in recent years. Competition among Chinese commercial drone makers in the space is expected to remain heated in large part because of DJI. The Shenzhen-based company, the world's largest drone maker, has sharpened its focus on industrial applications, led by its Matrice line of commercial drones.

DJI and XAG are estimated to have a combined 80 per cent share of China's overall drone market.

Additional reporting by Che Pan

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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