Drone Startup Partners With Purdue To Boost Biofuel Crops

Courtesy of Purdue University

An agbioscience startup is helping Purdue University develop more and better biofuel yields.

GRYFN is partnering with Purdue under a $4.5 million grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a division of the U.S. Department of Energy.

The research will help in the rapid genetic improvement and production of sorghum crops for biofuel.

Multi-sensor, drone data-collection tech enables breeders to scale research operations and empowers them with precise, repeatable analytic solutions for high throughput phenotyping in the field.

GRYFN is using the technology licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

“Data collection in plant breeding is a labor-intensive and slow process. Measurements can be highly subjective,” GRYFN CEO Matt Bechdol said.

Bechdol, a Purdue alumnus, added:

“We believe our system helps make field data collection faster, more automated and consistent, and will be collaborating with leading commercial crop breeding partners to validate this value. We are creating easy-to-use systems that combine sensors, advanced processing, artificial intelligence and drones to produce consistent, quality data for predictive and decision-making tools. This innovation has natural resource, infrastructure, and even archaeological survey applications.”

Eight Purdue professors founded GRYFN. The team represents several specialties – aeronautic technology, biology, plant sciences, agricultural and biological engineering, civil engineering, and electrical and computer engineering.

The technology was originally developed under the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA) program, through a $6.6 million ARPA-E grant awarded in 2015.

The team at Purdue started developing the technology as part of the university’s push for “world-changing research in plant sciences to create innovative approaches to the growing demand for food, fuel and fiber.”

“Purdue’s strategic investment in plant sciences and the entrepreneurial ecosystem helped secure the first TERRA grant and performance justified a second ARPA-E investment in continued research and technology to market efforts,” a Purdue news release states.

Purdue has been on the cutting edge of drone tech. In 2017, Indianapolis-based drone manufacturer Aerotronic joined forces with the Purdue College of Engineering School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The partnership gave engineering interns the chance to research the company’s drone tech to detect pipeline leaks and provide first responders with aerial views of disaster sites.



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