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Why tech startup Flyability chose Cargill to reach new heights

Read Time: 3 minutes

June 17, 2024


Much like the drones it produces, Flyability has taken off since its launch in 2014. 

The Switzerland-based technology startup produces aerial drones that help make inspecting confined spaces — like the inside of a grain bin — safer, faster and more cost-effective.

As it’s taken off, Flyability has had to navigate the challenges of being a startup. These include weathering a constrained venture capital market and breaking into new industries like food and agriculture, where vast potential exists for Flyability’s technology.

To do it, the startup needed a new co-pilot, providing much more than funding.

Cargill and Flyability started partnering as two companies with a strong strategic priority of safety. “We’re here to take humans out of unsafe situations,” says Patrick Thevoz, co-founder and chief executive officer of Flyability.

Four men in white hard hats and yellow and orange vests pilot a drone. Cargill has worked with Flyability to deploy drones in new and innovative ways since 2019.

To bring this vision to life, Cargill and Flyability started testing Flyability’s Elios drones in 2019. They entered into a commercial agreement in 2022 — bolstered by an equity investment from Cargill Ventures — to use Flyability drones in North America. The companies have plans to take the technology and teams global by 2030, as processes that are dangerous for humans are being eliminated around the world.  

Cargill also participates on Flyability’s product advisory board and has helped fast-track the company’s technology into food and agricultural markets.

This enabled Flyability to expand beyond the mining, power and maritime industries while gaining expertise and credibility in food and agriculture from an established partner.

“The fact that we work with Cargill helps open doors with others," says Patrick. “We don’t have that industry expertise that Cargill brings to the table. Cargill’s investment with us has put a stronger structure and longer timeframe on these collaborations.”

A man in a blue helmet looks down at a tablet with the view of a camera mounted on a flying drone. Cargill employees are using Flyability drones to inspect assets and areas that could be dangerous for humans. 

The financial support comes through the Cargill Ventures team. Launched in 2020, this internal venture capital group makes investments in innovative food and agriculture companies that align with the future needs of our customers and company.  

“Our partnership with Flyability showcases how we collaborate to bring phenomenal innovation to scale,” says Erin VanLanduit, who leads Cargill Ventures. “It’s really through these productive partnerships that we add value for both partners to grow and make a deeper impact.”


New destinations for drones — and for food and agriculture

 Three men in hard hats lean down and look up to the sky to see a drone flying. Cargill employees use drone technology to perform asset inspections, eliminating the need for humans to access potentially dangerous areas.

Partnerships with startups provide value on both sides of the equation. And this one is helping shape how Cargill works, too.

Cargill became a Flyability customer two years ago. We fly the startup’s drones into hard-to-reach spaces at our production facilities — such as inside grain bins and pipes — to complete visual inspections and eliminate the need for people to do this potentially dangerous work. This also helps us manage assets in a much more predictive and proactive manner.

“We have this wonderful balance with Cargill where it’s a much more complex, valuable relationship than just a customer and supplier,” Patrick says.

For example, Cargill is using Flyability's drones and LiDar technology to create geolocation visuals, and a new ultrasonic thickness testing probe to ensure the stability of hard-to-reach, confined spaces.

“Once we saw the data and results, we immediately knew this would change Cargill’s inspection methods and make our workplace safer,” says Calvin Rieb, who leads the Cargill drone program.

Adds Patrick: “By developing good products for Cargill, we set a standard for the rest of the industry. Additionally, the credibility that comes from working with Cargill is invaluable for us as a small company.”

For Cargill and Flyability, our work together is showcasing a flight path to a more valuable form of corporate-startup partnership.

“We have been able to build value, both financially and strategically, together and show on both sides of our relationship that we are getting more out of [Cargill’s] investment in us than a simple joint development partnership,” Patrick says.

“By identifying how our two companies’ strategies align, we’ve developed the relationship and products that make this a success.”


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