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Meet Petiole: plant phenotyping with smartphone

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

Petiole is our newest member to have joined the Barn4 Germination programme. Barn4 recently posed some questions to Petiole's CEO, Maryna Kuzmenko. Read on to learn more about the Petiole team, and the mission behind their phenotyping technology.

What does Petiole do?

The global demand for agriculture is increasing rapidly due to the growing population and various environmental challenges. Researchers need high-throughput, automatic, and reliable phenotyping instruments to develop plants that possess high nutrient content and are resistant to diseases and environmental stress. Farms need tools that help make quick decisions around problems with real time data-driven software.

We believe that the current state of smartphones can provide more value in this area, reduce the cost of equipment, save time for in-field data capturing and give the ability to anyone on the planet to conduct good agriculture research or increase farm productivity for their community without barriers.

The main inspiration to start our project was our spontaneous decision to help our friend, who is an ecologist. He complained about wasting his time and life to manually measure leaf area for his research in agroecology. Leaf area is one of the measurements carried out in plant phenotyping. We bootstrapped the first mobile application, made it available on Google Play, and discovered that researchers from other countries had started to use our mobile application.

After a few years of providing a free mobile application for leaf area measurement, we received huge feedback on the needs of the community of more than 9,000 researchers who had used Petiole. As a result, we created Petiole Pro, an advanced version of our previous apps, which includes more Computer Vision and Machine Learning algorithms to assess specific plant traits, in particular, related to size, amount, and colour.

Tell me about Petiole’s growth journey so far.

As of now, Petiole is constantly improving on technological advancements: we have modules for leaf area measurement, Nitrogen content checker, and seed counter. The new module for Fractional Vegetation Cover will be launched next week.

Petiole Pro is growing rapidly in terms of community and the main driving force behind this process is the accuracy of the measurements and trustability to us. Accuracy is one of the metrics for the quality of plant assessment. The main feature for Petiole Pro algorithms is the overall accuracy of 98.3% and its compliance with ISO 5725-2:2019. However, we are still on the way to obtaining official certification.

Trustability to our mobile application and its algorithms is growing. As of November 2021, we are aware of 13 DOI articles and 4 PhD/Master thesis featuring Petiole. These research works are published by plant scientists of a wide geography of countries, which includes Canada, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. For example, one of the latest research was discussing the identification of differential drought response mechanisms in Medicago sativa subsp. sativa and falcata through comparative assessments at the physiological, biochemical, and transcriptional levels, was published by 13 Canadian scientists in Plants MDPI.

Can you introduce me to the Petiole team and their backgrounds, and what inspired you to start Petiole?

We have two people as a core team at Petiole.

I am the CEO at Petiole and have a PhD in Business Law. I also worked as an antitrust lawyer for 5 years. Despite my promising career in law, I decided to pivot my expertise to digital technologies. For the last 7 years, I have focused on implementing best practices of sustainable agriculture with digital technologies. In 2016 I was featured among 100 Female Startup Founders by The Hundert and for the last two years, I have led the Ukrainian Group of Tech London Advocates to promote digital technologies between two countries - Ukraine and the United Kingdom. I am also a Virgin Startup Alumni, after participating in the 21st batch of the StepUp program (October 2020).

Andrii Seleznov is a technical founder at Petiole and a recipient of the UK Global Talent Visa in Digital Technologies. He has experience working with web (developed and supported 4 multimillion web applications) and mobile development (5 mobile applications published on Google Play Store). Andrii has over 10 years of commercial work at companies in Ukraine and the United Kingdom. As an agritech expert and a finalist of the GistTech-I competition, he was featured by CNBC among founders of the hottest startups in 2015. Andrii was twice invited to attend Global Entrepreneurship Summit (Kenya 2015 and India 2017) and got fully-covered scholarships for his participation. Also, he participated in the USAID-funded Agritech Bootcamp at Silicon Valley in 2016. Andrii is an organizer of the London Agri Startup Crash Test, the first agritech meetup in London in 2017, with 30+ attendees and three speakers from the UK early stage agritech companies. He is also a

member of Tech London Advocates. Andrii represented Petiole in the UK Agri-Tech Mission to Canada (2018) and UK Agri-Tech Mission to Colombia (2020), initiated and funded by Innovate UK.

How do you think the Barn4 Germination programme will benefit Petiole?

Since Barn4 offers a complete ecosystem within which technology driven agritech start-ups can thrive, we suggest that our Germination membership will be beneficial to Petiole at least in three aspects.

Firstly, we will have access to the professional network of crop scientists at NIAB and find the problems in plant phenotyping, which can be solved with Computer Vision and Machine Learning algorithms in a smartphone. This is a vital component for our product development.

Secondly, we are glad to become a part of the agritech community, created by Barn4. It is extremely helpful to find same-minded people and engage in regular agritech activities, organised by the Barn4 team.

Thirdly, we are hungry for knowledge. Nowadays it is easy to answer any questions with relevant requests to a search engine, however, it is much better to have a live chat with experts in specific fields. Starting from registration of Intellectual Property and finishing with the most up-to-date list of available grants and other funding opportunities for agritech startups.

What are your future ambitions for Petiole? How will the Barn4 Germination programme help Petiole achieve these?

Our goal is to bring Petiole Pro to each agricultural educational institution worldwide. We are already present at 13% of them but many more ahead. As a result, we continue to develop new modules for real-time plant phenotyping and constantly ask our customers about their needs.

Since Barn4 has a direct link with NIAB, we believe that the synergy of our knowledge in cutting edge Computer Vision and Machine Learning technologies and the hands-on experience of NIAB professionals may help us to define the needs of the agriculture industry, which have a strong impact on a global level.

If you were to give advice to another start-up, what would that be?

Read and re-read Eric Schmidt “Lean Startup”.

If you want to learn more about Petiole, click the link below to visit their website.


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