Donate to Science & Enterprise

S&E on Mastodon

S&E on LinkedIn

S&E on Flipboard

Please share Science & Enterprise

Crop Health Device Company Raises $3.5M in Early Funds

Oranges with HLB disease

Oranges with HLB infections (National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA)

14 June 2023. A company detecting early-stage crop diseases with handheld devices and artificial intelligence is raising $3.5 million in its seed venture round. Croptix, in State College, Pennsylvania is spun-off from engineering labs at Pennsylvania State University with a technology for assessing crop health and early detection of plant diseases in the fields.

While Croptix is completing its seed finance round, it’s hardly a start-up. The company was originally formed in 2013 as Atoptix Inc., evolving later into Croptix. The Croptix technology provides growers with a rapid test of their crops’ health, using a handheld system that combines spectrometry and ultrasound. Spectrometry takes measurements of light waves as indicators of other physical properties. The Penn State electrical engineering lab of Zhiwen Liu, co-founder of Croptix, developed a mobile spectrometer using a Fresnel lens that applies a grating scheme on emitted light, dividing light waves into more easily processable segments, and enabling a much smaller and simpler sensor for capturing optical image signals.

The Croptix field device, called a spectrophotometer, also uses a miniaturized ultrasound transmitter that creates a near-infrared image of the internal plant cellular and molecular structure. A sensor in the Croptix device captures the internal plant image for processing by the spectrometer. That initial analysis is sent to a companion mobile app for further evaluation with machine learning algorithms to detect diseases and provide an overall assessment of plant health in real time.

“Most serious disease of citrus”

The Croptix technology was funded in part by Small Business Innovation Research grants from National Science Foundation in 2017 and 2018. To prove the concept for NSF, the company applied its spectrophotometer to citrus Huanglongbing or HLB disease, a bacterial infection also called citrus greening. U.S. Department of Agriculture calls HLB “the most serious disease of citrus” with few symptoms in its early stages, no known cure, and where the disease is not yet evident, “early detection and removal of infected trees are critical to prevent spread of the disease.”

Liu founded the company now called Croptix with former Penn State lab colleague Perry Edwards. Liu is Croptix’s chief technology officer, while Edwards is CEO. The company provides HLB disease screening as a service to citrus growers that includes training with the Croptix devices, and says it’s adding plant nutrient analysis to its portfolio, as well as expanding its use to more crops. The completed seed investment, says Edwards in a company statement, “allows us to accelerate our development and market penetration efforts,” adding “We’re eager to add nutrient testing to our suite of solutions for in-field assessment of crop health to our customers.”

Croptix says its seed round totals $3.5 million is led by crop management company Advancing Eco Agriculture or AEA that specializes in regenerative agriculture. AEA’s CEO Jason Hobson says the company plans to include Croptix’s process as part of its agricultural consulting services noting, “This technology will help farmers quickly understand potential issues related to their crops and solve nutrient deficiencies before they become a problem.”

Earlier seed financing for Croptix came from 1855 Capital, a venture capital fund supporting start-ups from the Penn State campus, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a business accelerator backing start-ups from Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities. NSF grants for developing the technology totaled $1.1 million.

More from Science & Enterprise:

We designed Science & Enterprise for busy readers including investors, researchers, entrepreneurs, and students. Except for a narrow cookies and privacy strip for first-time visitors, we have no pop-ups blocking the entire page, nor distracting animated GIF graphics. If you want to subscribe for daily email alerts, you can do that here, or find the link in the upper left-hand corner of the desktop page. The site is free, with no paywall. But, of course, donations are gratefully accepted.

*     *     *


Comments are closed.