Revolutionary Bioluminescent Plants

December 19, 2023
6 min read
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What about the agriculture industry makes farmers a uniquely difficult target customer?

  • Can you really see individual plants from space?
  • What does it take to build an ecosystem?

Recently, we had the pleasure of sitting down with the Co-Founder and CEO of InnerPlant, Shely Aronov, to learn about the future of seed technology and agricultural sustainability. We discussed the need for low-risk, consistent solutions for farmers, shedding light on the challenges faced in building an ecosystem with multiple stakeholders involved. If any of the above questions piqued your curiosity, keep reading or watch her video below!

"Our ability to sequence and engineer DNA is strongly correlated to the increase in available computational power. As our gene repository increases, data storage and processing capabilities will be fundamental for making sense of an ocean of information."

Kira Noodleman - Partner, Bee Partners

Read more about this industry's anticipated challenges in our Synthetic Biology Insight Paper or more about the mission and vision of InnerPlant on their website.


Shely discusses the development of biosensors for agriculture using optical technology and plants that fluoresce. She shares their successful field testing, indicating the potential for adoption in the agricultural industry. She emphasizes the need for consistent and low-risk technology to drive farmer adoption, highlighting the challenges faced by new agricultural technologies.

The company's surprising experience in building a farmer community showcases the industry's interest in innovative solutions, and Shely stresses the importance of understanding the entire ecosystem and ensuring positive benefits for all involved. She also outlines the complexity of their business and the strategic planning required for future implementation. Ultimately, the goal is to lead the market with their groundbreaking technology for agricultural sustainability and effectiveness.

Shely Aronov: The Future of Agriculture

The Case for the Biosensor

The Birth of a Vision: Optical Biosensors and Satellite Technology

In a world where technological advancements are rapidly transforming industries, the agricultural sector is also witnessing a wave of innovation aimed at revolutionizing traditional practices by way of efficiency, productivity, and sustainability. InnerPlant, a team dedicated to pushing the boundaries of agricultural technology, has embarked on a remarkable journey to introduce bioluminescent biosensors capable of being monitored from space. This groundbreaking application, and subsequent development of the optical biosensor, offer a range of opportunities for monitoring crop health, environmental conditions, and optimizing resource management.

The catalyst behind InnerPlant's bioluminescent biosensors stemmed from the realization that traditional methods of monitoring crops would not be feasible on a large scale. Shely emphasizes the critical need for an optical approach, particularly for a venture that aspires to cover 200 million acres of soybeans. The idea of leveraging satellite technology to monitor the signal from space reflects a profound understanding of the scale and complexity of modern agriculture. This visionary approach aligns with the fundamental belief that technological solutions must not only be effective but also scalable and practical for implementation across vast agricultural landscapes.

From Molecular Biology to Fluorescent Plants

The pivotal role of molecular biology in this journey is evident through Rod Kumimoto, the CSO and Co-Founder who brought essential expertise to the table. His proposal to make plants fluoresce opened up a realm of possibilities. The concept of making plants glow bioluminescent or altering their color fragmentation showcased the diverse avenues explored in pursuit of the most effective technology. The emphasis on fluorescence as the superior choice underlines the meticulous approach taken by InnerPlant in evaluating and selecting the most promising path forward.

Initial Success and the Journey to Farmer Adoption

The validation of their vision came through a critical moment in 2019 when they were able to measure the plants outside, solidifying the belief that their technology was viable. This successful validation was a crucial milestone that laid the groundwork for the journey towards farmer adoption. That said, Shely, emphasizes the need for consistent results and reduced risk in order to garner farmer adoption. Her perspective on technology adoption in agriculture highlights the challenges and opportunities associated with integrating new technologies in agriculture.

Did you know that InnerPlant focuses on making sure that every company involved in its ecosystem benefits, with a particular emphasis on positive or neutral impact?

Navigating the Complex Landscape of Farmer Adoption

A crucial aspect of InnerPlant's strategy revolves around understanding the interconnected nature of the agricultural ecosystem. Its approach involves considering every stakeholder involved in delivering its solution to the end customer–the farmer. This ecosystem-centric mindset underscores the significance of collaboration and positive engagement across the agricultural industry. Furthermore, our attention is brought to the significance of forward planning and logistics, where we are stressed with the importance of preparedness for the challenges that lie ahead for this company, such as deploying sensors on midwestern farms and optimizing operations for seamless execution.

Shely's insights into the dynamics of farmer adoption shed light on the fundamental considerations that govern the acceptance of new agricultural technologies. Farmers are inherently pragmatic and cautious about new interventions (sometimes more than an average consumer) and rarely move without resonating with the tangible benefits. This acknowledgment regarding farmers serves as a guiding principle for other future innovations in agriculture.

Building a Farmer Community and Industry Readiness

One of the more surprising moments within the company's journey lies in their decision to build a farmer community, a move that not only aimed to gauge interest but also showcased the farmers' eagerness to be part of the technological revolution in agriculture. This initiative emphasized the paramount importance of involving end-users in the development and adoption of innovative solutions, but even Shely admits that she and the rest of the team were nervous whether their target customers would willingly pay for this community. Thankfully, the response was positive, and the birth of a platform technology began to take shape.

Conclusion: Charting the Path Forward

The journey of InnerPlant offers a profound insight into the intersection of groundbreaking technology, agricultural innovation, and the intricate dynamics of farmer adoption. The story exemplifies the remarkable potential of optical biosensors to transform agriculture, coupled with the challenges and triumphs inherent to introducing new technologies into traditional practices. As the industry's needs continue to evolve, the company will continue to foster a deeper understanding of the intricate connections within the industry ecosystem on its path to scale.

The vision is clear – to establish InnerPlant as the leading provider of innovative agricultural monitoring solutions, thereby reshaping the industry landscape and rendering their offering indispensable.

3 Key Takeaways:

  • The Uniqueness of Farmer-Centric Innovation: To drive farmers' adoption in the agricultural sector, there is great importance in developing consistent, low-risk technologies with clear, consistent results.
  • Sometimes You Don't Know Unless You Try: When InnerPlant tested out its pre-paid farmer community platform, there was plenty of risk involved. However, the company engaged farmers by involving them early on, showing them the future of their industry, and creating a farmer community invested in beneficial technological advancements–and it worked.
  • Stay Ahead of the Logistics Curve: Shely mentions how she spends significant time ideating on future possibilities and pathways. Focusing on complex business logistics, years of advanced planning, and impeccable execution will help keep a company at the forefront and provide a greater opportunity for technology implementation.

Shely and Rod came through our third fund, and since the investment, the team has continued to grow its service and personnel. Click here to learn more about the Company and Team, or here if you are a Founder innovating in any of our three vectors.

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