Understanding internal plant signals may help boost crop yields - Pinpoint Phenomics
Pinpoint has developed a system that allows the producer to quickly measure the internal signals a plant makes in response to the environment, revealing the equivalent of ‘what a plant is thinking.’ Plants are highly responsive to the environment and switch genes on and off rapidly, and how genes are expressed determines the overall yield, or crop “phenotype.” For example if the plant is deprived of light it will grow spindly and pale in colour until it finds a source of light.
By tapping into the signals within the plant it is possible to determine the cause of the underlying stress – lack of water, shortage of nutrients, attack from pests - and improve these conditions before they impact crop yields.
Pinpoint will analyse plant samples to give the grower advance information on crop performance. The method is also likely to be useful for breeders seeking to identify varieties with optimal combinations of traits.
Pinpoint was co-founded by Philip Wigge and Surojit Biswas. Wigge runs a research programme in the Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge University that studies how plants sense temperature. Biswas, who originally studied in the Wigge group, is now a PhD student at Harvard. Pinpoint uses a combination of wet-lab methods and machine-learning algorithms developed by Biswas and Wigge, to accurately, but cheaply understand plant gene expression.
GROW has been developed by Agri-Tech East to encourage entrepreneurship in agri-food industry. Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, explains GROW was devised to identify and support those UK agri-entrepreneurs with ideas to help agriculture and horticulture. By leveraging the highly supportive environment in the east of England Agri-Tech East will help these new agri-business grow into fully fledged companies that can bring real benefits to the industry.