Drone technology has proved to be an important tool in monitoring crop health, helping decide in selection of best seeds, fertilizer and crop-control products etc. Traditionally farmers relied on their eyes and opinions to determine what works best making it a costly and time consuming process.
Now, Anthony Hearst has developed, Progeny Drone Inc., a Purdue University-affiliated start-up, by launching a software application that allows plant breeders, agronomists, and others involved in small-plot trials to quickly and easily convert aerial crop photos into real-time plot-level metrics of plant growth and health that can help researchers make more data-driven decisions about best practices.
Anthony Hearst said, “We can measure plant growth and health faster, at a dramatically lower cost, and more precisely than people can do it by eye. The Progeny software app lets people with no programming experience turning raw drone images into plot images and metrics using low-cost drones and laptops.” Progeny can turnaround these data within 10 minutes, Hearst added.
Hearst, who recently earned his doctoral degree in agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue, launched his start-up in 2018 said he honed his app to meet the needs of potential customers when he participated in the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps program. He received a $50,000 I-Corps grant to survey potential users for a market analysis about the app he was developing.
Hearst says, “I interviewed hundreds of people from plant breeders to weed scientists,” adding, “our app is made by plant breeders, for plant breeders, but it meets the needs of all kinds of people doing outdoor small-plot trials.”
Progeny Drone has licensed the technology through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization. Fine-tuning of the product’s interface for ease of data entry and result tracking plus creation of payment mechanism was contributed by DelMar Software Development, based in the Purdue Research Park. Hearst said. “DelMar was key in helping us get the app to market and helping me move the app to market.”
Acknowledging the contributions of other parties involved in developing the software Hearst added, Purdue Foundry, a start-up accelerator was essential in helping Progeny Drone get off the ground and a $60,000 award from AG-Celerator; a $2 million plant science innovation fund for critical start-up support for Purdue innovators wishing to commercialize Purdue intellectual property. The technology aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration, celebrating the global advancements in sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. DelMar Software Development LLC, established in 2004 in West Lafayette builds custom applications for mobile, web, desktops, and cloud servers is also celebrating its 15-year anniversary.
The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities.
Hearst said that while he is initially targeting researchers doing small-plot trials, the app could be used eventually by farmers. Those interested in the software can learn more here.
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