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Ag drone technology startup sees growth

TAGS: Business
drone perdue startup.jpg GRYFN
Drone allows breeders to scale research operations with precise, repeatable data for research and high-throughput phenotyping and other applications.

Despite changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, a Purdue University-affiliated agricultural bioscience startup focused on research-grade sensing data for agriculture is growing as it takes multi-sensor drone data collection technology to market.

GRYFN, which offers precise geomatics solutions for coaligned and repeatable multi-sensor drone data collection, is adding members to its team, growing its space and looking to empower the future of agricultural research.

“The pandemic forced us to change the way we train and onboard new clients, and we moved to a larger, more traditional office space at the Purdue Research Park to accommodate growth and a safer workplace,” GRYFN chief operating officer Trenton Lindenman said. “These past several months have provided numerous opportunities for us to expand, adding team members and evaluating new technologies to empower researchers and breeders.”

GRYFN is using technology developed at Purdue and licensed through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization. The GRYFN approach uses an unmanned aerial vehicle platform with a coaligned sensor package – visible RGB, LiDAR and very-near-infrared hyperspectral – along with processing software, to enable breeders to scale research operations and empowering them with precise, repeatable data for research and high-throughput phenotyping and other applications in the field.

“We have added a full-time pilot and analyst to help with data collection and processing, a director of solutions for hardware-software integration and support, and we are actively recruiting a research scientist,” said Trent, who is also an alumnus of agronomy and agricultural education at Purdue. “This year was about operational excellence, driving evidence to support our capabilities and collaborator feedback. Now, we turn to telling our story, to sales and customer support for the coming season.”

As part of its continuing research and development work, the GRYFN team is actively integrating thermal and short-wave infrared hyperspectral technologies for use on platforms in 2021.

Leveraging a special Federal Aviation Administration waiver this summer, GRYFN collaborated with Purdue to fly day and night missions over corn fields to demonstrate an operational capacity to research nighttime crop stress due to heat and drought.

The startup partnered with Purdue last year and received a $2.25 million sub-award grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a division of the U.S. Department of Energy. GRYFN was founded by eight Purdue professors with backgrounds in aeronautic technology, biology, plant sciences, agricultural and biological engineering, civil engineering and electrical and computer engineering.

The technology was originally developed under the Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture program through a $6.6 million ARPA-E grant awarded in 2015.

GRYFN is expanding into a new location in Purdue Research Park West Lafayette, Ind.

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