University of Manchester spin-out Fotenix is eyeing growth after launching earlier this year.
Co-founded by Professor Bruce Grieve, Director of e-Agri Sensors Centre at the University, and Dr Charles Veys, the company offers a new online crop analysis tool, that aims to help improve yield quality and shelf life significantly.
Fotenix’s technology is the result of four years of hard work that Veys carried out during his PhD at the e-Agri Sensors Centre.
Veys describes his technology as a modern M.O.T for crops, following recent research field trips to Canada, China and multiple European countries.
“Our technology looks at the ripeness of fruits on the plants,” said Veys. “Fotenix’s ultimate aim is to increase efficiency in the agri-food industry across the world.
“We want to instil sustainable models, rather than intensive models which is an industry drive.”
He added: “With our technology, producers and agronomists can identify plant characteristics earlier in the season, well before they become visible to even the sharpest agricultural eye.
“This real-time information means that appropriate action can be made sooner and better informed, particularly when paired with the latest machinery – a huge advantage that will improve agricultural production efficiency and reduce its environmental footprint.
“Essentially, it’s a lifeline for the producer in realising what level the crop is at, and when to act.”
Fotenix, based at The University of Manchester Innovation Centre (UMIC), is now on the brink of scaling up operations and is looking to increase headcount.
Veys, also a food editor for a small independent magazine in Manchester, has been supported by the University’s Innovation Company, UMI3 Ltd, and its Innovation Optimiser initiative during his leap from the academic to the commercial world.
“When you spend four years on something you don’t want to just stop and park that on a shelf,” said Veys.
“I wanted to get it all out there and get my technology working in the field and we are getting closer to achieving that with each day that passes.”
He added: “Our work with the patent office is ongoing and we have received early-stage funding from The University of Manchester as well as lining up VCs for the next stage of seed funding.
“Being someone who is used to the technical arena and moving into the commercial arena has been quite a challenge. As you are suddenly in China, Canada and other countries on the ground while also going out and meeting with software developers and machine manufacturers.
“But that’s been very enjoyable, and become the next stage of education for me, and Fotenix is very close to becoming a scalable operation.
“Our aim is to soon be an OEM supplier to large farming manufacturers, looking to enhance their product offer. The industry has previous for this and it allows us to concentrate on what we are good at.”
“At present the large manufacturers use cameras on field machinery to look identify areas to apply fertiliser or herbicide and even when to harvest horticultural produce.”
“Our idea is to enhance this with our technology. We look at many different colours beyond the human eye – in some ways similar to night vision but with more colour.”