This article is part of a blog series introducing the startup teams of the EIT Food Accelerator Network Helsinki 2022 programme.
Fauna Smart Technologies is leveraging life-science knowledge acquired within academia using diverse technologies to empower intelligent farming and restore the equilibrium in agricultural ecosystems. The core team innovates within the area of domain expertise, which is horticulture science, crop protection and food security. The company offers a range of science-based and data-driven services that address the challenges faced by the farmers on a daily basis and facilitates a safe transition from traditional to biological farming practices in line with sustainable values.
Fauna was founded in 2019 and is located in Copenhagen, Denmark, with a multicultural and multidisciplinary team of dedicated scientists and engineers on a collective journey to transform the future of agriculture to provide better food for better health. The farmers are at the core of the solution, both as users and as customers. Nonetheless, Fauna is also serving the needs of further actors in the agricultural ecosystem in terms of R&D companies and digitalisation advisors.
The solution offered by Fauna is a pest and disease management platform for open and closed field systems. Based on a range of services which cover 1) plant immunity detection, 2) pest DNA identification, and 3) satellite earth observation. The platform uses a holistic approach and further provides science-driven and customised insights for farmers regarding product selection: when to spray, what to spray and how much. These user-friendly instructions are designed to help farmers transition to a greener, healthier and more efficient farming practices, in line with the newest EU regulations and strategies like GreenDeal, Farm2Fork and Biodiversity Strategy 2030.
The same EU regulations, directives and strategies are driving the ban of chemical pesticides and thus transition to biological crop protection products. However, these products work differently compared to chemical pesticides, and farmers need help! This is where we are stepping in with our solution and introducing a new parameter into a farming game: Plant Immunity. In recent years, the knowledge of plant defence responses has matured. Now, we want to leverage that knowledge in real-time and in the field to help farmers transition safely to new growing conditions.
Fauna is developing the underlying technologies leveraged by the platform solution and the services to facilitate the restoration of biodiversity and natural plant processes. And we are doing so by enabling farmers to keep pathogenic fauna below the economic threshold level, where the risk of yield damage caused by pests and diseases is kept at a minimum. Basically, Fauna is using digitalisation as an enabler to accelerate the transition toward greener agricultural ecosystems, healthy for us as consumers and the planet.
Immunity as a Service
It empowers farmers to perform measurements on the immune system of plants. This enables an assessment of whether plants are capable of suppressing pests and diseases below the economic threshold level or not. Also, the platform provides an option to help the plant to fight off pests and diseases externally using (bio)pesticides.
To perform the measurement, Fauna is developing the ‘plant immunity test’ that relies on an easy-to-use lab-on-paper technology very similar to the technology of, for example, pregnancy tests and COVID-19 tests. This test can detect immunity through the molecular data of the plant, which can be extracted from the liquid of a few mashed leaves. The plant liquid is then dropped onto the test area, and within a short period of time, it is indicated in the response area whether immunity is active or not. The plants can defend themselves against potential pests and diseases if immunity is active.
If immunity is not active, action from the farmer is required and (bio)pesticides may be needed to protect the yield. Further in product development, we will define different threshold levels of immunity also to redefine the dosages of the bioproduct needed. This service is used primarily in controlled environments and closed field systems such as greenhouse production.
Support for growth
Throughout the program with EIT FAN Helsinki Hub, we got the beneficial help to polish our business model, refine our R&D strategy and, in general, build a strong grounding for the Plant Immunity venture. In Fauna, we believe in a collaborative approach! This is why we are always on the lookout for like-minded people and organisations so that together we drive this change towards greener, healthier and more efficient farming practices.
Finally, we believe that the Future is Smart if we are building products based on long-term academic research since, in this way, we can fix problems in the long run and create impact with depth and scale!
Written by Dr. Dragana Vukasinovic, Founder and CEO; and Atijana Mitic, MSc, EMBA co-founder and COO