John Deere invests in tech that lets genetically engineered crops “talk” to farmers

03-10 | |
InnerPlant develops genetically engineered crops that can give off warning signals in case of drought, pests or nitrogen shortage so farmers can act quickly.
Photo: Still from video

InnerPlant develops genetically engineered crops that can give off warning signals in case of drought, pests or nitrogen shortage so farmers can act quickly.

The California-based company InnerPlant raised $16 million in a Series A funding led by Deere & Co, reports TechCrunch. The company, led by founder and CEO Shely Aronov, uses crop sensing and satellite technology to gather data.

Genetically engineered crops signal stresses at cellular level

InnerPlant’s genetically engineered crops signal stresses at the cellular level. These signals are collected by satellites to provide large-scale affordable next-gen scouting tools. Deere’s equipment is to complete the chain by scanning each plant and acting based on their individual needs.

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Biosensors

On InnerPlant’s website Shely Aronov explains how it all started with an an invention by two Tel Aviv University Professors, Yosi Shacham and Adi Avni. “Yosi and Adi introduced me to biosensors. My next step was obvious – I went to talk to farmers. Their feedback was clear from day one and became the ethos for InnerPlant – No additional work, no changes to operations, scalable, and affordable.”

Aronov learned that biosensors have been used in molecular biology labs for decades. “The next chapter was about finding a way to detect them outside in broad daylight to make them scalable for agriculture. Nick Koshnick, an early advisor and investor, introduced us to Solar Induced Fluorescence (SIF), the game-changing technology we needed to scale biosensors.”

Also read: Biosensors monitor sugar levels in plants in real-time

According to Aronov “another watershed moment was meeting Ben Chostner, from Blue River. His company was just acquired by John Deere. Ben told me about their See and Spray technology and I told him about our biosensors, we both immediately knew this was the future.”

First soybean product in 2024

InnerPlant aims to launch its first soybean product in 2024. In addition, the company will start launching satellites to speak to its sensors in 2023. “We now have a really efficient process to develop soybean traits, and we’re now working on the first commercial product which is the fungal detection of soybean sensors,” Aronov told TechCrunch. “We should have that in field trials next year, and then a soft launch with our Inner Circle members.”

InnerPlant’s Inner Circle has 75 farmers working about 400,000 acres. These are a group of farmers that paid $500 early on in the company’s lifecycle to get access to products first.

Claver
Hugo Claver Web editor for Future Farming



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