The World Food Organization predicts that the world will face food shortages by 2050 due to population growth. Therefore, new technologies are already being developed and implemented on farms that will make it easier and more economical for farmers to grow food.
This is precisely the main goal of the InnerPlant startup.
“We use plant physiology to collect and analyze data to make agriculture more efficient and sustainable. Or, simply put, using sensors and satellite technology so that plants and farmers can ‘talk’ to each other,” said Shelley Aronoff, founder and CEO of InnerPlant.
Sustainability as a leap to food security.
The startup InnerPlant was founded in Davis, California in 2018. It was founded by Shelley Aronoff and Rod Kumimoto. Since its founding, Shelley Aronoff and Rod Kumimoto have spent time in the research and practical farm testing mode. The company’s main product is the development and implementation of genetically modified crops that can communicate their needs, such as when irrigation is needed, if insect pests have taken over, or when nitrogen levels in the soil drop, by providing pulses so that farmers can act more quickly and more precisely.
Thanks to these developments by startup InnerPlant, farmers can reduce the amount of pesticide they apply, as well as minimize crop losses due to insect pests or pathogens such as fungi and phytophthora.
Already in 2021, the startup raised more than $5.5 million in investment from MS&AD Ventures in its first round, and this year, 2022, it won the startup round from Deere & Co. joined by venture capitalists from MS&AD Ventures, Bee Partners and UpWest, for a total investment of more than $16 million.
The new investment gives InnerPlant $22 million in total funding to date as it prepares to launch its first soybean product in 2024. In addition, the company will begin launching satellites in 2023 to communicate with its sensors.
“We now have a really effective process for developing soybean traits, and we’re now working on our first commercial product, which is soybean fungus detection sensors. We should be doing field trials next year and then doing a program launch with our Inner Circle members.”– Aronoff told TechCrunch.
The InnerPlant Inner Circle has 75 farmers farming about 400,000 acres. It’s a group of farmers who paid $500 at the start of the project to be the first to have access to the products.
In four years, InnerPlant has grown to 18 employees. In the fall of 2021, Randy Schultz, a science executive with more than 15 years of experience at Arcadia Biosciences, Inari and Monsanto, joined the startup.
The startup moved to a bigger lab this winter, and “it finally has a place to put its capital,” Aronov said. This will allow the company to hire more people for research and development, data and design, business development, customer service and marketing.
Meanwhile, Deere & Co. isn’t used to innovation on the farm. Earlier this year, John Deere announced its self-driving tractors and See & Spray target technology.
Tan Hartsock, director of corn and soybean production systems at Deere & Co. told TechCrunch that the investment in InnerPlant aligns with his company’s mission to help farmers better prepare their land and grow better crops with technologies such as precision fertilization and irrigation.
“Being able to give the plant what it needs, when it needs it, in many cases at the individual plant level is where our strategy leads us,”said Tan Hartsok
“Shelley and our teams have quickly found that our visions of sustainable farming are aligned. Our investment is a commitment to being part of understanding how such a solution can improve crop production efficiency. Preparing to get rid of waste from the system will ultimately lead to a more profitable and better outcome for the farmer.”