USDA advanced regulatory approval for a Davis-based company creating a new seed technology that will allow growers to identify plant stress within 48 hours of onset and help pinpoint remedies with potentially fewer pesticides.

The plants are genetically engineered to produce proteins that fluoresce when under attack from pathogens or when short of water or nutrients. According to USDA, InnerPlant modified two soybean plants and one tomato plant to produce an optical signal.

One of the soybean plants emits the signal when there is pest damage, while the other soybean and the tomato plant continuously emit the signal. Those signals can then be detected using remote sensing devices from tractors, drones or satellites.

“USDA approval confirms our due diligence around the safety of our technology and reduces the time and complexity of our commercial development cycle,” explained Randy Shultz, Ph.D., InnerPlant’s Senior Vice President of R&D, Commercialization, in a release. “And it’s an encouraging proof point as we continue working toward global regulatory approvals.”

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InnerPlant’s first commercial product will be a soybean fungal sensor currently undergoing field testing with farmer trials scheduled for 2024 and on track for commercial launch in 2025.

The company recently announced a collaboration with satellite partner Satellogic to launch a space-based signal detection device later this year and plans to bring InnerPlant’s traits to elite soybean germ plasm with Mertec, LLC

Last September, John Deere led a $16 million funding round for InnerPlant, along with early investors, Menlo Park venture capital firm MS&AD Ventures, TAU Ventures of Tel Aviv, Israel, San Francisco-based Bee Partners LLC and Palo Alto-based UpWest.

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