Netherland-based startup, “InnerPlant” is allowing crops to speak to growers with some pretty cool new technology. Currently, by the time plants show visible signs of stress, it’s often too late, meaning even if farmers catch something like a fungal infection or an infestation of pests in one part of their fields they’ll most likely have to apply an expensive product over their entire farm to curb the spread.
InnerPlant thinks they have a new solution allowing crops to communicate via “smart seeds”. According to founder and CEO Shely Aronov, when plants are under attack they have a reaction on the biological level that protects themselves and that reaction is both early and specific. What’s interesting is InnerPlant’s technology platform spots threats to plant growth including pests, nutrient deficiencies, water stress, and so on quicker than is possible via traditional farming methods.
In order to do that the company recodes plant DNA to include a fluorescent safe-for-human-consumption protein that lights up the leaves of a plant when there is a problem. Essentially it’s turning the entire plant into a living signal that can talk to the farmer when there is a problem via different colored lights indicating different issues. Because the fluorescence that the plants create isn’t in a visible spectrum for humans farmers won’t be able to see it with their naked eyes. However, it is easily visible via a common smartphone with a filter or with a multi-spectral camera. Some say you can think of it as “on-demand” crop protection and analysis.
Keep in mind, the problem with pathogens is that by the time you can see the problem… the problem is already everywhere. Aronov says it’s not so much about finding patient zero faster, but rather it’s about recognizing the first unit, which for most farmers is difficult because they are monitoring hundreds and perhaps thousands of acres. Bottom line, this new technology means we are on the path to more quickly identifying a problem in a single plant which can help us avoid applying chemicals to an entire field.
One of InnerPlants most interesting completed trials was a drought test conducted in a greenhouse between the biosensors and regular crops. It turns out that drought stress is the easiest thing for them to test. What they found after they started cutting off the water was that within about three days they started seeing early signals. Whereas the farmer and agronomist didn’t see any visible signs for three or four additional days. The takeaway is huge because it’s a scalable way of getting data in at least half the time of our traditional visual inspections.
From what I understand, the product is still in the “testing phase” with the first commercial launch in the US scheduled for the 2024 growing season. I encourage everyone to watch this short 2-minute video on how they see it working Click HERE (Source: thespoon, Forbes, innerplant.com)