By Gracie Mullan
Croptix, a leader in tech sensors that detect plant diseases right in the field, announced that a significant investor and stakeholder in agriculture care and research Advancing Eco Agriculture (AEA) has granted the Croptix team a major investment to fuel their research.
With the ongoing support from Penn State, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, 1855 Capital, and now AEA, Croptix can diversify its plant health detection, improve crop quality, and provide better turnover rates for farmers. Croptix plans to expand its technology and services nationwide and eventually globally to assess nutrition and disease in a variety of crops.
MRI is proud to have supported the team with seed funding from our Humanitarian Materials program when they needed to make the direction change, and it is very fulfilling to see the results of that seed support.
“We are very excited about the success of Croptix in bringing in an impressive funding package,” said David Fecko, the director of MRI (Materials Research Institute) at Penn State.
“The company started small in a niche area of handheld spectrometers for general materials characterization, but when they found an application that played to the strengths of their technology, they made a strategic pivot. MRI is proud to have supported the team with seed funding from our Humanitarian Materials program when they needed to make the direction change, and it is very fulfilling to see the results of that seed support.”
Croptix was founded by CEO and co-founder Dr. Edwards and CTO and co-founder Dr. Zhiwen Liu to commercialize sensor technology that could more readily assess the health and condition of the crop right in the field. They translated their technology from the laboratory into hand-held devices for farmers to use right in their fields. Their research began with the help of Penn State’s research labs.
Penn State allowed Croptix to transition from an idea into actuality. The Office of Technology Management and Invent Penn State helped facilitate the use of licenses and provided networking opportunities for the startup.
“The technology we are creating will allow the disease detection process to be significantly expedited for farmers to identify the problem before it becomes a crisis,” said Dr. Edwards.
According to Dr. Edwards, without sensors, detecting disease or nutrition in crops can be long and arduous. Farmers must take a sample of their crop, send it to a lab where the sample is tested, and receive results within seven to ten days. At that point, the information could be dated and unuseful to the farmer. By providing the technology directly to the farmers, this detection process is optimized.
Early in-field detection of plant health is important to prevent the start and spread of disease. “It’s better to be proactive than reactive,” said Dr. Edwards. “Often if diseases are not identified before they are visible, a whole field or orchard could be contaminated.”
The technology we are creating will allow the disease detection process to be significantly expedited for farmers to identify the problem before it becomes a crisis.
With patented in-field sensors, cloud-based platforms, AI technology and more, farmers are able to receive results quickly on the Croptix mobile app. Farmers are able to evaluate potential risks to their crops before they become a major issue.
“We’ve built a platform that combines innovative sensor technologies with the data we’ve collected in a way that we specialize in,” said Dr. Edwards. “We have been able to gather data quickly, analyze results, and present findings in an efficient way.”
The next step for Croptix is to provide more easy-to-use products for farmers to use on a variety of crops. Dr. Edwards also looks forward to expanding the team to grow its network.
“When starting a company, it is very important to surround yourself with people who can help your idea succeed. Also, realize that the path you expect to go often isn’t the path you’ll take,” he said.