The company pioneering the development of living plant sensors – InnerPlant – has announced its successful US$5.65 million seed + pre-seed funding. In 2020 the company introduced its first product, the InnerTomato™ and is currently developing additional crops including InnerSoy™. The investment opens the way to developing new products using data directly from plants for crop risk management and food supply chains.
InnerPlant taps into plants’ natural defences to delivers this unprecedented flow of information. Plants have evolved sophisticated defence mechanisms to protect themselves from environmental stresses. InnerPlant piggybacks on these signals by adding a safe protein, long studied for human consumption, to plants’ capabilities. When plants are thirsty, short of nutrients, or under attack by pests or fungi, they generate different optical signals that can be seen in daylight using common optical filters on devices ranging from an iPhone or tractor to a satellite.
Farmers routinely 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’s approach to collecting data directly from plants and its use of advanced algorithms to process the data provides plant-by-plant status that’s impractical using external sensors.
“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 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 fertilisers are used only when needed.”
Farmers around the world are facing unprecedented challenges from radical climate change while simultaneously struggling to produce more food for a growing global population. Current farming techniques cannot handle these challenges and farmers are resorting to prophylactic pesticide use. Consequently, crop yields become more unpredictable, taxing the value chain, and service providers like insurers who provide risk mitigation for farmers and the entire food supply chain.
The newly announced funding was led by MS&AD Ventures, the investment arm of the Japanese insurance titan MS&AD Insurance Group, with participation from Bee Partners, Up West, and TAU Ventures.
“The rapidly changing conditions facing the farming industry create a risk environment that is hard to track,” explains Jon Soberg, MS&AD Ventures’ Managing Partner. “InnerPlant’s unique living sensors and associated data platform provide a unique solution that allows farmers to use land more fruitfully and this aligns with our mission to build a sustainable future. We believe that the insights from InnerPlant will help us to better manage the entire food supply chain.” concluded Soberg.