Investment Notes: Bioscout AU $3m Seed
Critical crop loss from fungal disease has proved to be a systemic ordeal for farmers. Weather systems like La Niña, that have recently lashed our country with record rains and floods, are a playground for fungal over-growth. Yet with increasing restrictions on broadacre chemical application and waning pathologist support, growers have been left significantly under-resourced and devoid of confidence when trying to protect their cropland.
Burkard traps have served growers for decades, but are outdated hardware products with long processing-cycles and are greatly dependent on human intervention. Weather modelling and remote sensors are current best practice and due to their software stack, are able to provide live inputs. But neither of these methods measure the actual disease load, pre-symptom and in real-time.
Without direct inputs to determine the appropriate level, timing and location of treatment, growers have resorted to over-use of fungicide which increases the chemical resistance of the spores and contamination risk for neighbouring farmland and runoff, costing farmers billions.
Bringing confidence back to farmers
Via a simple text notification, Bioscout informs growers of disease threats up to two weeks in advance of current forecasting practice, providing the necessary breathing space for critical crop prevention.
By combining automated microscopy and machine learning, Bioscout’s completely autonomous sensor captures and tracks air-borne fungal spores in real-time. With greater insight into crop biodiversity, spray effectiveness and disease hot spots ‘round the clock, farmers can find confidence in both the data they need to substantially optimise crop yield and avoid the headaches of unwanted spray drift in large-scale farming.
Farmers adopting new technology
History has shown that growers have been more laggards than anything. They’ve been slow to adopt new technology and it’s created high barriers to entry in the agricultural market. The question therefore is — why would growers be likely to consult the services of a startup then?
The reason we believe is two-fold. First, Bioscout operates as a hardware-as-a-service solution. Instead of a large lump-sum upfront, Bioscout leases the sensors to farmers and charges an annual subscription fee (in excess of installation). This is a perfect compromise; growers can trial and scale up their usage as their need grows, leaving Bioscout to benefit from what it actually delivers.
Secondly, in a world where supply-chain and labor shortages continue to be a headache post-pandemic, growers have been forced to rethink best practice and experiment with new solutions. Bioscout have proven they can capitalise on this opportunity with sensors live in every mainland state in addition to numerous contracts & international pilots locked in over the next 6 months.
Executing with velocity
When we first met Bioscout in 2019, they were a small research team lead by PhD candidate Lewis Collins and honours students Henry Brindle, Josh Wilson & Saron Berhane. They had proposed an automated spore trap which collected airborne-data using cassettes. The product wasn’t real time, the cassettes needed to be replaced yearly and were over dependent on external testing to determine pathogen load. Their underlying economics weren’t there yet either — they were just as some investors say, “early.” Fast forward two and a half years, and Bioscout have stepped up to the plate remarkably with not only a different team complexion, but a solution that has transcended more than just a research tool. Their early success is undeniably all to do with their brilliant execution.
The ability to execute effectively and with velocity is almost always an upstream signal of product-market fit (PMF). Lewis, Henry and Tom not only triangulate a deep skillset in mechanical engineering and optics but also amplify many of the intangibles we look out for at Stoic : Tenacious, deeply motivated by a personal & emotional connection to a problem and at the core, customer-obsessed. Lewis can be hard to get a hold of at times, but after four or five business days I’ll receive a response that he’s either on a farm down South or in-train to another half-way across Australia, or the world.
It’s not everyday a thesis paper is brought to life, but when you have a relentless force like the Bioscout team, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Bioscout are ramping up their device deployment across Aussie viticulture and broadacre farming. In addition, they are looking to launch several pilots & research partnerships in Europe and North America in the coming months.
The team culture is hybrid-first and growing. If you’re interested in hopping on the revolution check out their open roles.