The agtech industry has also experienced, although at a slower rate, a great digital acceleration over the years. From companies focusing on harnessing data on crop condition, many of these technologies are introduced in an attempt to combat excessive use of pesticides and the impact of radical climate change.
However, many of these technologies like sensors and drones, although innovative, are still challenged at identifying pest infestation or crop disease over massive farming areas. Sometimes taking days before a response is formed. Israeli agtech startup InnerPlant is looking to change this by introducing a “plant whisperer” platform. Instead of using external sensors, the company grows them right into the plant’s DNA.
Shely Aronov, CEO and founder of InnerPlant: “Rather than installing hardware across fields, farmers continue planting crops the way they always have and our platform pulls data directly from individual plants to provide farmers with insight into stresses so resources like pesticides and fertilizers are used only when needed.”
Japanese insurance giant leads the round
According to the company, farmers can see up to 20% of their harvests destroyed by pathogens that could have been controlled with earlier detection and more responsive, plant-specific interventions. InnerPlant recodes crop DNA to communicate through fluorescent proteins, which farmers can detect through special imaging equipment. Once imaged and combined with InnerPlant’s machine learning algorithms, the data alerts farmers to pests, disease, drought, or nutrition stress, within a hours. By turning plants into living sensors, the Israeli developed platform helps growers quarantine or adjust irrigation to a field in time before a problem spreads. Essentially, the company looks to “teach” plants to complain about bugs and the weather, but in a language that farmers can understand.
InnerPlant has raised $5.65 million in Pre-Seed and Seed funding, from MS&AD Ventures, the investment arm of Japanese insurance titan MS&AD Insurance Group. The rounds also saw participation from Bee Partners, Up West, and TAU Ventures. “Enabling crops to express their needs finally brings the data revolution to the farmer’s field in a way that fits with how they’re already working,” says Aronov, in response to the round.
The challenges facing farmers today both on the climate and pesticide fronts are consequently causing crop yields to become more and more unpredictable. This in return can heavily tax the value chain and service providers; mainly the insurers providing risk mitigation throughout the entire food supply chain.
InnerPlant was founded in 2018 by CEO Shely Aronov and CTO Roderick Kumimoto. According to the company, the capital will help expand new product development for the crop risk management and food supply chain sectors. Nimrod Cohen, managing partner at TAU Ventures: "We are happy to support Shely and her exceptional venture from the start. InnerPlant has real potential to become a large company which will impact one of the biggest problems in the world. and with Shely, the sky's the limit."