Dieter Mulitze (John Reidy photos)

Chicago, IL (December 17, 2019) – The Ag Tech Innovations Showcase was held for the first time Dec. 10 during the American Seed Trade Association’s (ASTA) CSS & Seed Expo 2019.

The event featured nine companies offering the latest in technology and breeding techniques.

For photos and videos from throughout the conference, follow Seed Today on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Agronomix Software

Agronomix Software, Winnipeg, MB, earlier this year introduced a highly relational database called Genovix, which is a brand-new software system for plant breeding and variety testing.

Company Founder Dieter Mulitze says the software has more capabilities than ever before after more than five years was spent to develop it.

“The more it is linked together, the more you can do,” Mulitze says. “Use all of your data to maximum advantage. The more relational a system that ties it all together is to empower you increases the probability of developing a superior hybrid.”

He explains Genovix provides easy linking phenotypic, genotypic, environmental, parental, and generational data in a central database that expands analytical possibilities. Response to selection and tracking genotype development is far easier with highly linked data, Mulitze says.

“A simple database structure will not deliver the results for any serious plant breeding program,” Mulitze says. “The database must be highly relational, so it links all the data in many ways to empower the breeder.”

He adds the software is designed to improve the ease of use for plant breeders and save them time.


Arable, San Francisco, CA, is taking a new approach to the complex problem of feeding the world’s population, says Jess Bollinger, vice president of strategic partnerships. Currently, she says 2-3 billion people do not have access to nutritious food.

Yet, Bollinger adds it can take 10-12 years to release a new seed variety to market. In order to provide a different, cost-effective breeding technique, Bollinger says Arable is taking a data driven approach.

“Seed breeders and seed production is the future of food,” Bollinger says. “Some companies are starting to think about this challenge differently.”

Digital phenotyping and advances in breeding strategies provide a more accurate, real-time evaluation of genetic material under widely varying environmental conditions. Technologies unlock a uniform methodology for collecting data throughout the breeding pipeline from greenhouse to open field.

“With advances in spectral and thermal detection, phenotyping can become increasingly automated and advance our understanding of superior traits through novel indicators of plant performance,” Bollinger says. “For seed breeders aiming to produce and reproduce a particular outcome, it is vital to be able to observe and quantify the environmental phenomena affecting a greenhouse or open field trial in order to isolate, compare, and replicate plant responses under variable growing conditions.”

Farm Market iD

Steve Rao

The recent focus of Farm Market iD, Westmont, IL, has been on using data and technology to help agribusinesses, including seed companies, better connect to the grower and the markets they compete in, CEO Steve Rao says.

The information is used in aiding strategy, marketing, and sales decision making, he says.

Rao explains data is compiled through a variety of sources, including land records, deed sales, and FOIA requests from the government. They have farm field boundaries that outline 900 million acres of farmland, or 95% of all farm acres.

“Our goal is to give as holistic of a view of the farm operations so agribusiness can make the best decisions on how to serve the farmers, how to find the farmers, and how to recommend different services to them,” Rao says.

MarketView is the company’s newest tool, providing business intelligence to help strategic level decision making “so you’re not making million-dollar decisions based on it feels right, it seems right, or this is what we’ve always done,” Rao notes.

“You’re actually using data to power your decisions,” he says.

Rao adds the tool can provide data about market share, where a company is competing, and their wallet share to make informed decisions and provide custom analysis.


Madelyn Koester

Granular, which is a platform of Corteva Agriscience, builds digital tools and services to help farms be more profitable, Product Manager Madelyn Koester says. The company aims to use technology to help farms run as stronger businesses and steward land for generations to come.

It has products lines related to land access and crop production, she says.

Granular Insights is the newest directed scouting tool and the company is planning to add integrated financial and agronomic analysis tools, Koester explains.

Granular Insights, she notes, provides near daily satellite imagery that can be used to help monitor crops from afar.

“Throughout the season, you can find and fix crop issues earlier than you might have if you were relying solely on boots on the ground to find out what’s going on in your fields,” Koester says.

For example, she points out the imagery was used to pick up white mold in a field.

“We were able to go directly to that spot where the vegetation is bad in the field, figure out what’s going on, and hopefully treat that white mold issue before it really becomes a problem,” Koester says. “We can see things come through imagery and go out to make corrections faster than we might have.”

She adds the tool can also be used to rank fields and help growers prioritize the time spent in fields as their time available for scouting is usually limited.


PowerPollen, Ankeny, IA, provides pollination on demand, Chief Intellectual Property Officer Jason Cope says.

Hybrid production fields can have bottlenecks within it and are prone to risks, he says.

“Timing is paramount, and it’s greatly influenced by the environment,” Cope says. “The male has to shed at the same time the female is receptive and if this doesn’t happen, you lose yield.”

He explains pollen production is always limiting.

“The more you increase the male presence in the field, the less seed you’re going to get as yield on the female,” Cope notes. “So there’s always a critical balance there.”

Preserved pollen allows for more to be done with crops and increases flexibility, Cope says. The process optimizes timing and allows for pollination when the female is ready, he says. The male presence in a field can be minimized, which Cope says allows for better land utilization.

The goal is to increase yield and improve product quality, he adds.

“When you know you can rely on preserved pollen, you start to think about things differently,” Cope says.

In season adjustments can be made as a different male can be brought to a field and Cope says, “you’re no longer carved in stone when you plant a male and female together.”

Progeny Drone

Progeny Drone provides software to analyze drone imagery of research plots for breeding and agronomy, Co-Founder and CTO Katy Rainey says.

Rainey, who is an agronomist at Purdue University, says flying drones frequently over research plots can be useful.

Often, she says researchers can leave a field without the information they need.

“With a standard laptop and just about any drone platform and camera combination with our software, you can have phenotypes or drone data before you get back in your truck,” Rainey says. “You can do this without sharing your data with anyone.”

Rainey explains the software clips every image of every plot from all of the raw images your drone collects.

“We are finding things are changing rapidly and there are specific time points that are critical to your understanding of crop development,” Rainey says. “The software enables crop scientists and agronomists to progress in applications of this new and valuable data source.”

She adds the technology is ideally suited to field trials so it should greatly accelerate the digitalization, efficiency, and accuracy of crop improvement efforts.


Dr. Francesco Dellendice

QualySense, Zurich, Switzerland, believes it can change the understanding of the composition of seeds, says Founder and CEO Francesco Dellendice. Analysis is usually done on an average basis, which can result in not really knowing what is being dealt with, potentially leading to financial and disposal issues.

“We believe change to all of this can be done by analyzing and processing every individual seed,” Dellendice says. “They want to analyze what’s really going on.”

The company’s transport system analyzes one seed at a time, he says.

“We can look at the seeds from the inside out, so not only from a physical point of view but also a compositional point of view,” Dellendice says. “It goes very fast. We deal with many seeds per second.”

The QSorter has two platforms, Explorer and Horizon. They are not color sorters, he says.

“We are a company focusing on compositional analysis and sorting, which we believe is the future of sorting and processing,” Dellendice says.

He explains the system can tell exactly what’s in a mix, adding the goal is to provide data in a meaningful way.


SlantRange, San Diego, CA, is a remote sensing and analytics company that provides tools for aerial phenotyping and research and breeding applications, CEO Mike Ritter says.

Interest in aerial phenotyping is gaining traction from researchers and breeders, he says.

“The measurements that can be delivered are shown to be more accurate, more repeatable, and more objective than what you can get from humans in the field,” Ritter says. “You can deliver trait measurements that you can’t get from ground measurements. By their nature, the measurements are digital, which allows you to do more analysis downstream.”

With the imagery, Ritter says the crop population is segmented from the background such as soil, residue, water, and other objects in the field. Computer vision techniques are applied to look at a number of different traits across the season, he explains.

“That enables the breeder to more accurately characterize how inputs are behaving,” Ritter says.

SlantRange’s cloud platform is used to aggregate, process, visualize, and disseminate results from research trials. The company has seven patented enabling technologies and in 2019 it analyzed one million plots in 57 locations.

Sound Agriculture

Sound Agriculture, Emeryville, CA, has developed a new approach to facilitate crop breeding, CEO Eric Davidson says.

According to Davidson, the company started by looking at the intersection of two trends in agriculture driven by sustainability and productivity increases. The result of changing weather and severe weather is driving the needs for on-farm products and sustainability. At the same time, Davidson says consumers are driving changes to the products growers are encouraged to use.

“The intersection is really what we were thinking about in terms of sustainability,” Davidson says.

The company’s new technology is centered around seed breeding, he notes.

“We’re excited about the potential to use it for crop efficiency improvements all the way through to crop waste reduction,” Davidson says. “This is a very fast and efficient process because we’re starting with a seed.”

He says the process results in heritable phenotypes.

“We can go from concept to plant with a phenotype in about three months,” Davidson says.

He adds the process can be implemented with no off-target effects and more than one gene can be targeted simultaneously.

Davidson says the approach has been demonstrated across a diverse range of crops and phenotypes.

Written by Chris Lusvardi, Seed Today editor

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