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HomeagriculturalThis startup helps plants talk to farmers, reducing pesticides and agricultural waste

This startup helps plants talk to farmers, reducing pesticides and agricultural waste

What if plants could communicate with farmers and let them know when they were in distress? This will not only benefit the plants, but also minimize the quantity of agricultural waste that endangers the planet’s health.

Much of agriculture may appear green, but it is one of the world’s leading carbon emitters. According to the EPA’s 2021 data, it accounts for at least 10% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural waste contributes to the situation.

Even with pesticides, disease and pests claim up to 40% of the world’s food crops, according to a National Institute of Food and Agriculture research from 2023. SatAgro, Climate FieldView, and InnerPlant, a California-based firm, are now attempting to reduce agricultural waste.

InnerPlant uses genetic engineering to help crops converse with farmers. When a plant is in distress, the device employs fluorescents to send a signal through its leaves. That signal is observable by equipment attached to satellites, drones, or tractors.

“As the plant is reacting to the stresses in your environment, like fungal pressure insects or nitrogen deficiency, it will start to signal and then we can help farmers understand what areas of the field need something and what areas are fine and don’t need additional chemicals,” she said.

Farmers may determine what to treat based on that signal, saving money on chemicals that are over-applied by up to 30%, according to Aronov.

“We want to eliminate all the unnecessary applications of chemicals into our food system, into our soils, and also the additional cost that comes to farmers that they don’t get any benefit from,” he said.

This technology is highly scalable and may be licensed to major seed companies. InnerPlant would collect royalty revenue, which is appealing to investors.

“If you can get this technology into every corn seed or soybean seed in North and South America, that’s hundreds of millions of acres, and you can estimate a few dollars per acre in revenue. That suddenly generates a lot of income for this company,” said Tom Biegala, a founding partner at Bison Ventures and an InnerPlant investor.

InnerPlant is also backed by John Deere, MS&AD Ventures, UpWest VC, and Bee Partners. It has a total funding of $22.3 million.

InnerPlant now collaborates closely with both small farmers and some of the country’s largest agricultural producers. Some have paid to have early access to the technology, which will initially target soybeans before expanding to other crops.

— Lisa Rizzolo, a CNBC producer, contributed to this report.



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