For our Startup Spotlights, Times of Entrepreneurship scouted the most successful startups that spun out of top university competitions and programs. The impact of such awards can be many years in the making, especially in the DeepTech space.
Interviewee: Shely Aronov, CEO and founder
Which university challenge did you win and when? Or how are you affiliated with a university?
Our technology is based on research conducted by Prof. Yosi Shacham and Prof. Adi Avni at Tel Aviv University and the University’s venture fund TAU Ventures is an investor.
What is your elevator pitch? Has it changed much since you started?
Elevator pitch: InnerPlant is revolutionizing farming by collecting data directly from Living Plant Sensors so farmers know when they’re sick or thirsty and can take action before an entire field is affected.
Yes, our elevator pitch changed considerably from when we started because initially, we were exploring how to collect data from traditional sensors placed in fields around plants. Once we realized that the most effective and efficient sensors are the plants themselves, we shifted our focus and our elevator pitch.
What should we know about you?
Plants’ natural response to stress causes changes in their physiology. InnerPlant taps into these natural changes by adding a safe protein, long studied for human consumption, to the plants’ natural capabilities. When InnerPlants are thirsty, short of nutrients, or under attack by pests or fungi, they emit different optical signals that can be seen by optical devices ranging – from an iPhone to a satellite.
The optical signals from the plants alert farmers to their needs potentially weeks before problems arise and remove the need for the blanket application of expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Although huge amounts of agrochemical pesticides are routinely used, farmers still see up to 20% of their harvest destroyed by pests and pathogens. These losses could be mitigated with lower agrochemical input by early detection and more responsive, plant-specific interventions. Information communicated directly from the plants allows us to achieve these goals and increase yields and farm profits while reducing environmental impact.
What are you looking for?
We’re always looking for partners, farmers, seed distributors, and investors, who want to help chart the future of agriculture as we develop the next revolutionary seed trait for soy, cotton, and corn.
Why should someone invest in you?
Because we are revolutionizing the way we farm. For the first time in human history we will be farming based on the plant’s needs instead of mitigating risks using dangerous chemicals in the absence of data. Addressing the 40% inefficiency in the $2.4T global food and ag supply chain represents a massive opportunity both in selling better seeds to farmers and in providing better data based products throughout the supply chain.
How much total funding have you raised so far and from which sources?
We’ve recently announced a successful $5.65M pre + seed round 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.
How many employees work for your startup?
Is there clear evidence of success you would like to share?
Our InnerTomato plants provided proof that our approach works in California fields during the summer of 2020 and we’re continuing to gather data from farms this season. Beyond that proof of concept, our InnerSoy plants have cleared major milestones in the lab and are well on their way to field trials in 2022.
If you would describe your startup to have a superpower, what would it be?
Our technology allows plants to “talk” to farmers when they’re sick or thirsty – we consider that to be a pretty amazing superpower.
This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.