BioScout made a compelling case for an Accelerating Commercialisation grant.
BioScout has developed an elegant solution to a costly problem in agriculture. The company detects crop damage before a farmer can see it. While the product has global potential, the immediate opportunity is to prevent up to $2.4 billion in lost yield annually on key exports for Australian farmers.
Founding team moves fast and has an authentic connection to the problem
Lewis Collins, CEO, and the team come from farming backgrounds. They are driven to create real value for all stakeholders down the value chain.
The team has done the hard kilometres to reach the final product. I heard stories of the founders driving six times a year from Sydney to Coonawarra and back “in a 1994 Hilux with no suspension”, to flick a switch on a prototype when a piece of hardware stopped working.
Inventive IP creates a strong value proposition
BioScout invented a way for large commercial crop growers to detect disease earlier than any other method, increasing yield and profits.
The current method captures fragile air samples and sends those to an offsite lab for a manual reading under a microscope. Results take three weeks and can cost $600 per sample. For a large grape grower like Treasury Wine Estates, the diagnosis comes too late to pick the fruit. The result is damaged crops and lost revenue.
To solve this problem the team built a microscope from scratch and combined it with an airflow inlet, to capture disease samples. The microscope automatically scans the samples in real time. Images are sent to BioScout’s database of samples for disease matching. And the grower has a diagnosis in a matter of hours.
With BioScout’s novel invention, growers can act on diseases with targeted fungicide spraying, saving cost. Less damage to crops means higher yields, increased margins and increased farmgate value.
Clear support from industry
The technology stands out as an elegant integrated solution to a large and complex problem. The team developed five prototypes in three years to arrive at the final product. This is very fast by the standards of Australian agtech startups and the complex value chain BioScout is disrupting.
They miniaturised a pathology lab, placed it on a pole in a paddock, and integrated the data flow with a remote disease database. Together this is an inventive step-change that industry experts didn’t think was possible.
A compelling value proposition means the company has support through the entire value chain. The team has worked with large commercial growers, fungicide manufacturers, government pathology labs, and highly experienced agronomists. This means they can continue to strengthen the product in response to industry needs.
This industry support is a strong signal that the product has the potential to become deeply embedded in agriculture practice.
A deep market with big potential upside
Detecting disease is just the start. Lewis and the team have an ambition to become “predictive meteorology, but for disease”. The impacts for the $64 billion crop protection industry, and national biosecurity, is huge.
Over time the business strategy will evolve from selling sensors. The company is developing the world’s biggest disease database, openings the door for new customer segments to develop complementary products, and new growth horizons for BioScout.