Seed World

Boost for Smart Green Farming Innovation

A smart agriculture innovation developed by a John Innes Centre researcher has received recognition in a prestigious competition.

Dr Pawel Mikulski, a postdoctoral researcher at the John Innes Centre, reached the finals of the GROW Agri-Tech Business Plan Competition, held by Agri-Tech East and sponsored by Innovate UK.

Dr Mikulski’s innovation addresses the problem that current fertiliser use is not environmentally sustainable and generates high financial cost for the farmers. It is therefore difficult to assess nutrient deficiencies in growing plants in a precise and timely manner.

AgriOptimizer developed by Dr Mikulski aims to address this problem by using the plant’s molecular signature to precisely determine plant health issues at an early stage and create a fertiliser with a bespoke prescription.

AgriOptimizer can also be used as a testing platform to assess general plant health status under treatments with new agrochemical products including biostimulants.

Dr Mikulski explains: “Healthy plants and those with a disease or nutrient deficiency have well-defined distinguishable molecular signatures. Our test would build on this knowledge, identifying how the plant growth is being impacted and providing a prescription for optimising its performance.

“Next step in business development is to validate these molecular signatures on the farms, collaborate with the agronomists and agritech companies to match our solution to their plant diagnostics problems. The novelty of our technology lays in the capability to assess the level of multiple nutrients within the plant at the same time, before visible crop health symptoms arise. The end goal is to establish a commercial platform that offers comprehensive, early crop diagnostic service for agritech.”

Dr Mikulski works in the group of Professor Dame Caroline Dean at the John Innes Centre focusing on developmental transitions in plants.

Dr Jonathan Clarke, Head of Business Development at the John Innes Centre, who supported the development of AgriOptimizer said: “The ability to precisely monitor plant health in the field will be a valuable tool for agronomists and farmers. Applying AgriOptimizer technology to evaluate the performance of new agronomy products and practices will play an important role in building farmer confidence and encouraging early adoption.”

Source: John Innes Centre