PES Technologies are providing industry with leading insights into soil biology. We recently posed some introductory questions to the company's CEO, Andrej Porovic. Read on to learn more about their technology, team, and plans for the future!
What does PES Technologies do?
We are developing a sensor that will provide soil health indicators to farmers and agronomists while they are out in the field within five minutes. It is an instantaneous, on-farm method for assessing soil health.
How does your technology help farmers to analyse their soil health?
Microbial life in soil produces gases as metabolic by-products, resulting in every individual soil sample having a unique gas fingerprint relating to its microbial activity. Our sensor detects these gas fingerprints and pattern matches them to known indicators of soil health. We are currently calibrating the system, using 14 different indicators of soil health, chief amongst these being microbial biomass, organic matter content, available NPK, and pH.
Our vision is for agronomists and farmers to combine their knowledge of what they see above ground, with knowledge about what is going on below ground.
Can you introduce me to the PES team and explain why you started the business?
PES Technologies was co-founded by Dr Jim Bailey, Graham Bailey and myself. Dr Bailey was part of a programme being run by a venture builder called Deep Science Ventures (DSV); while on this programme in 2017, Dr Bailey met with NIAB-EMR and discovered there was a lack of good-quality, affordable tests for measuring the biological indicators of soil health. This inspired the idea for a gas-fingerprint sensor. The aim was to create something affordable and scalable that would provide comprehensive information about soil health, and in particular info about microbial biomass, as direct measurement of it aren’t available commercially. Dr Bailey then developed and invented the company’s proprietary sensor technology, which is the first of its kind in the world and is patent pending.
Andrej Porovic is the company’s CEO, and initially joined PES to coordinate application for an IUK-funded feasibility study, which was successfully secured. After coordinating PES’ internal efforts for several years following that, Andrej was appointed the role of CEO in September 2019.
Graham Bailey is the company’s CPO, and he came on board to ensure that the sensor product could be brought to mass-market by developing a hand-held reader unit that contains the electronics that process the data coming off of the sensor.
Steve Lock recently joined as PES’ Head of Engineering; he has an extensive background in product delivery and engineering, and is helping PES produce the right product for the market.
The team is supported by non-executive directors and advisors with extensive experience in agriculture, start-up building, financial management, raising investment and marketing.
Why did you become a Barn4 member?
We have collaborated extensively with NIAB since our founding and found it to be a really productive relationship. The people we’ve worked with are very professional, knowledgeable, and NIAB’s brand recognition is important when we’ve talked with farmers as it provides legitimacy. Therefore, being associated with NIAB is very important for us.
We find the facilities at Barn4 convenient, especially being able to have access to laboratory space. Due to the nature of our work with gas sensing, we need an area which has lots of fresh-air flow – we thought this might be a tough ask, but the staff at Barn4 were fantastically helpful and we’ve made an arrangement to use the hangar space at Barn4, as it is ideally suited for this purpose. As a result of being a Barn4 member we have put forward a proposal for another project, this time about detecting the health of onions in long-term storage.
What are you most proud of in regard to PES Technologies’ growth journey?
We’re still on the way to producing a commercially ready product, but simply the fact that we have developed revolutionary sensing technology that is mass producible is an incredible achievement. Translating something developed on a lab-bench to something that can be produced at huge volumes is difficult, and it has involved our partners not only having to push the limits of their technology, but their suppliers having to push the limits of their technology as well. Through doing this we have created innovation across the supply chain.
What are the next steps for PES Technologies?
We have an intended launch date of 2023. In the short-term, we are looking to develop our first fully functioning prototype. With this, we can focus on user experience on smartphones and consider how we will integrate our technology into the many farm management apps that already serve agricultural decision-makers.
If you want to learn more about PES Technologies and visit their website, click below.