When stressed by pests, diseases or environmental factors, plants emit tiny electrical signals. If a cost-effective system could capture, analyse and translate those signals automatically, crop researchers, growers and suppliers could use the data to boost crop yields, reduce crop losses or use less crop protection.

Vivent Sàrl, a pioneer in harnessing biosignals, and its partner Agroscope, the Swiss centre of excellence for agricultural research, are working on such a system. In 2017, they turned to INARTIS NETWORK for innovation advice and support.

We enabled Vivent to accelerate its innovation project by:

  • helping them access research funding;
  • identifying the appropriate research partners;
  • defining the right project structure.

“Help from INARTIS NETWORK was instrumental in gaining funding from CTI – today’s Innosuisse – and in structuring our project for success,” said Carrol Plummer, CEO of Vivent SàRL.

After reviewing Vivent’s initial project proposal, INARTIS NETWORK advised the company to apply for an Innosuisse innovation cheque to finance a preliminary feasibility study. The innovation cheque provides small companies like Vivent with access to R&D services worth up to CHF 15 000 from a public research partner. The results showed that it is possible to read plants’ biosignals in normal growing conditions.

Then INARTIS NETWORK worked with Vivent and Agroscope to develop a regular Innosuisse R&D project including identifying the following partners and roles:

  • the Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie et d’Architecture Fribourg (HEIA-FR) as the partner in developing the sensors needed to capture biosignals;
  • the Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie et de Gestion du Canton de Vaud (HEIG-VD) as the partner to apply machine learning to analyse plants’ biosignals;
  • Agroscope to carry out experiments in sophisticated greenhouses which mimic conditions used in commercial production;
  • Vivent itself to develop plant interfaces and export the machine-learning algorithms to sensors so plant stressors can be detected in real-time.

“Working with INARTIS NETWORK is straightforward, effective and efficient. They understand that SMEs and start-ups want to make fast progress, and they respond accordingly. They have been key partners enabling us to create high-tech jobs in the region,” said Ms Plummer.

With INARTIS NETWORK’s support, Vivent has made great strides. Today, the company has already developed the PhytlSigns RESEARCHER system. It has been designed to provide plant researchers with a cost-effective way to monitor plant biosignals under real growing conditions.

Vivent is also developing PhytlSigns PROFESSIONAL. Designed to detect biosignals and alert growers to specific plant stressors in real-time, the system will enable crop growers and agribusiness suppliers to take decisions that could improve crop yields and quality, while reducing the scale and scope of environmentally damaging crop treatments.

As an INARTIS NETWORK member, Vivent drew on the association’s services at no additional cost. Want to make your R&D project our next innovator’s success story? Join the Swiss Life Science community now.

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