Ventures and Precision Planting Reaping Results

The seeds of collaboration planted by Rose-Hulman Ventures and Precision Planting are bearing fruit in many fields these days, thanks to the latest project to come from an eight-year association.

An industry leader in the field of agriculture technology, Precision Planting develops software and devices that address the issues facing modern growers. The company’s recent challenge was to come up with an efficient way to ensure proper spacing between some 300,000 cornstalks in a field. Ventures worked with the company to develop a tool that resembles a child’s Pogo Stick. The hand-held, pole-like device is equipped with both a 100-foot rolling tape measure and an iPad utilizing Bluetooth Low Energy technology. It enables Precision to document the distance between freshly sprouted cornstalks to ensure the proper spacing that’s critical for plants to grow to full maturity.

The prototype proved so successful, Precision requested assistance in developing some 40 additional units. More than 1 million data points have been collected in fields from Texas and Iowa to Kentucky and Indiana utilizing this device. To make recording and collecting data easier for individual growers, Precision Planting has also introduced Precision Spacing Measure, an iOS app now available in the app store. The app also was developed by Rose-Hulman Ventures.

A secondary benefit of many Ventures projects, including this one, is the opportunity to experiment and learn more about emerging technologies, noted at Ventures. The team gained more familiarity with Bluetooth Low Energy during development of the crop tool. In addition to preserving battery life in remote devices, Bluetooth Low Energy also better facilitates the use of the devices for integration with Apple Apps, Landess said. Lessons learned in this project will yield large benefits in other projects.

Precision sees multifaceted benefits in its ongoing partnership with Ventures.

“I think there’s a chemistry that makes Rose-Hulman attractive,” says Precision Planting engineer Justin Koch, alluding to Ventures’ combination of technical expertise across many engineering fields, knowledgeable project managers, in-house prototyping, and exceptional student interns.

Recruiting high-caliber engineers for its teams is a big goal, and taking projects to Ventures is a great way to scout talent, Koch said, referring to student interns who gain an inside track while working on projects. Any drawbacks to using students is minuscule compared to the resources invested in developing a full-time employee once hired, he said. A flexible workforce available at Ventures year-round for research and development consultation also is a big plus.

Another key benefit to working with Ventures, aside from “a rich source of ideas,” is the fact that, unlike other university-affiliated development firms, there are no barriers regarding intellectual property rights on shared projects, Koch says. The client retains the rights.