Poladrone locks in US$4.29 mil funding in Malaysia’s largest known seed round
By Digital News Asia October 26, 2021
- To scale operations, acquire talent and expand to Indonesia next
- Aims to be Southeast Asian leader for industrial drone solutions
Poladrone, an end-to-end drone solutions provider headquartered in Malaysia, has raised US$4.29 million (RM18 million) in a Seed round led by Wavemaker Partners, a Southeast Asian venture capital firm.
Other investors that participated in the round include the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), a strategic investment fund wholly owned by the Khazanah Nasional Bhd, ZB Capital Limited (a Hong Kong-based principal investment firm), and angel investors.
“The funding will allow us to scale up operations to better serve customers across the region, and to attract top talent to further improve our products,” said Cheong Jin Xi, Poladrone’s founder and CEO. With a presence in Thailand already, an Indonesian expansion is being planned for next.
One of those companies that has benefited from the labour shortage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the oil palm sector which has seen leading companies accelerate their adoption of technology, Poladrone has quadrupled its team from 20 to over 80 in less than a year.
“Having been brought up in a household of agricultural operators all the while spending over a decade working on his passion for drones, Jin Xi knows precisely what problems plantation owners face and how automation can help. It has been amazing to see him and the Poladrone team's approach to building localized solutions that are highly efficient, cost-effective, and tailored to plantations of all sizes. Poladrone now works with eight out of 10 of the biggest palm oil plantations in Malaysia - an impressive feat that gives us confidence to back the team and their vision of propelling Southeast Asia’s agriculture industry,” said Gavin Lee, General Partner at Wavemaker Partners.
“Our investment in Poladrone will spur the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) in the agriculture sector in line with the National 4IR Policy and the recently launched 12th Malaysian Plan. The technology offered by Poladrone would be able to reduce the reliance on foreign workers especially in the palm oil industry while at the same time helps increase the number of knowledge workers in the drone industry,” said MTDC.
“The DroneTech ecosystem is largely fragmented in the region. With the right team, funding, and support, we aim to be the leading player for all industrial drone related solutions,” Cheong added.
A key new initiative by Poladrone is the setting up of Service Centres (pix below) in agricultural towns to offer “Sales, Service, and Spare Parts” in Malaysia and Thailand. The Service Centres will also act as Centres of Excellence, where industrial training and knowledge sharing will be conducted to boost the adoption of drone technology.
“Many of our customers rely on drones to earn a living, and downtime is detrimental to their livelihood. As most operations happen away from metropolitan areas, our Service Centres will provide better accessibility to customers to quickly maintain or repair their equipment. We are extremely excited to partner with the team at Wavemaker and MTDC who share the same vision, putting our customers’ needs at the heart of our growth strategy,” said Cheong.
Poladrone has also recently launched Mist Drone – a blanket spraying agriculture drone that is better suited for open field crops, such as paddy, corn, and banana.
Prior to that, with support from the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, Poladrone launched Oryctes in August 2020 as the world’s first precision spot spraying drone to introduce an efficient and automated solution to the labour intensive oil palm industry.