When we think of innovation, complex computers and robots often come to mind first. But nature can also serve as a source of inspiration to find solutions that we must relate to every day. InsectSense builds innovative insect-based technologies. “We use the honey bee to detect diseases in plants, animals and humans,” says founder Aria Samimi. He told Innovation Origins about how the company is doing.
“Insects have been on Earth longer than any other animal species. The reason they have survived so long is that they can very well adapt to their environment and develop new abilities. So why not use their help to solve problems ?
At InsectSense, for example, we make grateful use of the honey bee. They possess a talent that humans do not have: an incredible sense of smell. To give you an idea, they have such a strong sense of smell that it’s like finding a drop of water in 20 Olympic swimming pools. No human or existing technology can match that. “
How does your bi-inspired innovation work?
“We are developing a biosensor: BeeSense. It acts as a kind of detection system: A screening tool to detect diseases in humans, animals and plants. Honeybees can observe a metabolic change in plants. If a plant becomes ill, the bee notices it. Ultimately, our system can help farmers detect diseases in crops at a very early stage, resulting in preventing the spread of the virus and the disease, reducing the use of pesticides and ultimately more.Because it is a low-tech solution, the innovation is easy to use and can be easily implemented by developing countries. “
Our small unit can be held in the hand or placed on a work table. You can imagine a shoebox with the bees in it. We are able to monitor their behavior and translate it into numbers. Experiments last only a few hours, and after the experiments, the bees are free to return to nature. “
In addition to honeybees, do you also use other insects?
“We are also working on a new product: LumiNose. This is a small device with a biochip that works with the odor receptors of different insects. In combination with machine learning, our chip is able to detect different diseases. And in the case of disease, it becomes “The severity of the situation is also clear. For example, based on a respiratory test, we can see if someone has breast cancer and what stage the disease is in. In the end, the chip can help the doctor decide which medicine works best.”
What about the development of these two innovations?
“With BeeSense we carry out a number of pilot projects and validate our product. We work with partners from the agri-food sector. I expect we can enter the market next year. With LumiNose we are still in the early stages. A few years of research and development are needed to make this product ready for the market. Next year we will start different pilots to further develop the technology. “
What challenges do you face?
“Like any other start-up, we are looking for financing. Because we build platform technologies (a multi-application technology), it is also sometimes difficult to decide which market to target first. With BeeSense, we are now mainly active in the agri-food sector. But “Who knows, maybe another market will eventually suit us better. We have to look at exactly how we will grow in the near future.” And after developing our technology for the agri-food sector, we would be happy if BeeSense could also save lives in developing countries through rapid screening for human diseases. “
What do you hope to have achieved in five years?
“We have grown enormously in two years. As a newcomer, we must dream big, but start small. I hope that our growth continues and that in five years we will have a branch in another country and add some other technologies to our portfolio. All of course based on insects. Because that’s what I love about this company: that we can show the world that insects have much more potential than you might think. ”
Insectsense has been nominated with LumiNose for the AtlasInvest Entrepreneurship Grant from Wageningen University & Research. The winner will be announced during F&A Next by Marcel van Poecke. F&A Next is an international event organized by Wageningen University and Research, Rabobank, Anterra Capital and StartLife. The event brings start-ups in the field of food and agriculture into contact with investors and thus acts as a springboard for more innovation.