Photo: Pedro Ruiz The Duty
The technology developed by Benjamin De Leener and his partner will be tested next summer by farmers and agronomists of quebec.
Quebec is full of passionate entrepreneurs who are trying to leverage an idea or an innovative concept. Each week, The Duty takes you to meet people with a vision, whose ambitions could transform your daily life. In this last article of the series, two experts in biomedical imaging put their knowledge at the service of farmers and the planet.
At the age of 28, Benjamin De Leener immersed in the university environment since always. He has a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a phd in biomedical engineering, and he is on the verge of completing a post-doctorate in the same field. But after years to analyze images of the human body obtained by magnetic resonance, it has somehow received the call of the agricultural world.
“Contrary to what you might believe, a phd, and it leaves a lot of time to think about something else,” says a smiling one who specializes in the imaging analysis of the spinal cord.
Last January, Benjamin and his colleague Gabriel Mangeat, who is interested in imaging the brain, are immersed in their studies when one of their friends offers them the opportunity to develop a robot that can take care of a garden.
In the space of three months, they are able to design a prototype, that they set up in the library of Polytechnique Montréal to raise awareness among the student population to agriculture. They think the marketing of a robot gardener to assist farmers in their tasks on a daily basis, then ravisent. The real business opportunity, do they discover, lies in the marriage between their expertise in imaging and agriculture.
“We look at what is happening in the human body and in the brain. You can’t go on in the mind of people to know exactly what they have, but it can be done with magnetic resonance imaging. We can do the same thing with the ground, ” says Benjamin.
The company ChrysaLabs, that the two partners have just found, is developing a portable device for analyzing the soil of a field in real-time.
The system is based on a spectrometer, which can measure the luminous radiation. By planting the instrument in the earth, the farmer obtains accurate data on the composition of the soil. It can as well improve the fertility and prevent the onset of diseases.
The technology ChrysaLabs, which will be tested next summer by farmers and agronomists of quebec, aims to make the analysis of the soil faster, more accessible and less costly.
Currently, summarizes Benjamin, a farmer must collect some samples in his field, and send it by post to a laboratory for analysis. It receives the conclusions 3 to 7 days later and, in some cases, must consult with an agronomist to interpret the report. All at a price varying between$ 50 and $ 100 per sample.
Result : the farmers limit the number of samples and treat their field is relatively uniform, supporting the entrepreneur. “If the farmers had the opportunity to go look around the field, they would see that there are variations according to the areas, because there are things that happen under the ground. “
In the end, the tool ChrysaLabs must allow farmers to use less fertilizer, but mostly use it at the right place in order to increase production. “There are financial benefits for the farmer because it reduces the amount of fertilizer to buy, and the benefits to the environment, because it reduces the amount of chemical fertilizer that ends up in the water table,” explains Benjamin.
You can’t go on in the mind of people to know exactly what they have, but it can be done with magnetic resonance imaging. We can do the same thing with the ground.
Benjamin De Leener, co-founder of ChrysaLabs
Help the small players
If all goes as planned, the instrument of ChrysaLabs will be able to suit all types of agriculture and all sizes of businesses, but the young company would particularly like to offer a technological tool to more small producers.
“We could sell our technology to the $ 100,000 to a big farmer, but if we can do something that costs 100 times less expensive and that we reach many more farmers who have all need it, we are going to cover such a large area,” stresses Benjamin.
After completing his postdoctoral fellowship, this account to initiate a second at McGill University. He admits it : in the academia, some to the combined degrees waiting for an interesting job opens up to them.
With ChrysaLabs, it may just be to create the job he is looking for.