Massey Joint Venture Reveals the Invisible World of Endophytes
15 November 2022
Massey Ventures and Grasslanz Technology today announced the launch of Palmerston North-based Agri-tech company MI8 Optics Ltd. The joint venture uses hyperspectral imagery to detect important endophyte traits in grass seed for quality control purposes.
Cows grazing lush pasture.
Endophytes are naturally occurring fungi that protect pastures from insect pests, but can sometimes cause animal health problems, like ryegrass staggers. Companies now produce seeds containing certain strains of endophytes that give farmers the best of both worlds – providing pest resistance without seriously affecting animal health. Quality assurance is therefore critical to confirm that seeds have the right endophyte strains, ensure the endophytes are alive, and check for other contaminant strains. In the past, quality control has required a time-consuming manual procedure that destroys the seed in the process. MI8 Optics solves these issues using advanced hyperspectral imaging technology developed at Massey University.
Hyperspectral imaging uses advanced cameras that see beyond the visible light spectrum. MI8 Optics have developed proprietary algorithms to analyse these images and determine the characteristics of seeds, including whether they contain the right endophytes.
MI8 Optics technology provides rapid, powerful insights about the quality of endophyte containing seeds without destroying seeds in the process. The current technology detects, with more than 90% accuracy, whether the endophyte in the seed was dead, alive, or not present at all. The testing is price competitive and has a fast 48-hour turnaround on seed samples.
Endophyte detection is just the beginning. MI8 Optics aims to expand into other seed quality characteristics, such as germination and purity, and automatic seed sorting to ensure only the highest quality seeds are released.
“This hyperspectral imagery technology will revolutionise not just measurement of endophyte traits in grass seed but also measurement of other important seed related traits. It is rapid, non-destructive, accurate and cost effective” says John Caradus, CEO of Grasslanz Technology and Director at MI8 Optics.
MI8 Optics is the second spinout built on hyperspectral sensing expertise from Massey University. Massey Ventures, the University’s commercial arm earlier launched another spinout company, Hyperceptions, a joint venture with Ravensdown Ltd. Hyperceptions uses hyperspectral sensing from an airplane to monitor soil fertility and deliver targeted fertiliser application across high-country farms.
“Hyperspectral imaging is a powerful technology, and we are only just starting to scratch the surface of its potential” says Massey Ventures Commercialisation Manager, Dan Carlisle. “This is the second Massey University spinout built on expertise in hyperspectral sensing and we are continually looking at future applications where the technology can add value”.