Putting power in the palm of our hands

Interview with Anthony Martin – Co-Founder Rapid Phenotyping (Hone)

Described at a ‘chemistry lab in the palm of your hand’, local startup Rapid Phenotyping (Hone) have developed a product that is putting the power back in farmer’s hands and creating new marketplaces for app developers. Brought together by the desire to create a commercial product and change the world at the same time, scientists and founders Dr Jamie Flynn, Dr Anthony Martin and Dr William Palmer have quickly mastered the local startup landscape. Along with seed funding from Hunter Angels, they have managed to secure close to $1 million in government grants. The team also won $100,000 and the opportunity to attend a 12-week Launch incubator program in San Francisco at the LAUNCH Festival Startup Competition.

Your innovation

We have developed a technology that instantaneously analyses the chemical composition of any liquid or solid material. Our work is split into two parts – the hardware and the software. The hardware is the device that allows the measurements to be taken. The software is the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The software is particularly exciting as it can be much broader in it’s application – we hope to see this software used in industries from medical to mining.

Currently we are focused on the agricultural industry. Our handheld device, The Smart Lab, can be used to test soil or crops. It will allow farmers to make real time decisions to optimize harvest management and better control the composition of their produce.

Your story

Jamie Flynn and I (Anthony Martin) are born and bred in Newcastle. We met Will Palmer 10 years ago during our early years at The University of Newcastle. We all have a background in the life sciences – Jamie is a neuroscientist, Will is in biotechnology and I have a math/science background.

The concept for the Smart Lab device came out of a PhD project that saw us needing to collect over 10,000 samples of sorghum plants for lab testing. It sounded like too much work so we started trying to create a faster way to do it.

Your business and /team

We are at an emerging stage. Our team is currently 8 people including the three founders. We each have our expertise but at this stage of the business we move between areas as needed. There is definitely a lot of crossover and cross-collaboration.

Because there are so many possible applications of the technology, we have also created a marketplace model that allows developers to join on as development partners. It’s similar to the way the app store works in that it is a consumption based model. The developer gets revenue each time the application is used. We have around 10 development partners, mostly in Australia, but a few international partners in the US and Asia.

We haven’t publicly released for sale yet. We are trailing in the Liverpool Plains and getting very good reactions farmers – it’s going very well. We plan to release be end of year.

Innovation Ecosystem Support accessed (accelerator/ funding/ mentoring, etc);

We’ve been lucky enough to access a lot of support locally and further afield. Our first assistance came from a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Grant from Jobs for NSW. Next we underwent the Entrepreneurs’ Programme through AusIndustry.

Locally, we’ve done the Startup Express with the Business Centre. Through the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) we were also connected with local Angel Investment groups and private investors.

We also recently moved into Eighteen04 – it’s been really good to be amongst other people who are going through similar startup journeys.

Why Newcastle

We’ve talked moving to the US a few times; it’s where it’s all happening but it’s very expensive. It’s not just your living expenses; good people are very expensive in places like Silicon Valley. We also think if you go too early, you can get lost in the sea of startups. We decided to put that off until we have more momentum.

Closer to home, we’ve also talked about moving to one of the capitals but it always comes down to cost and lifestyle. You want to be somewhere that attracts good people, and we’ve had good experience in attracting good people to live and work with us in Newcastle. We’ve had quite a few come to Newcastle for the job.

Having access to the University and high quality research facilities is also a big draw card for us.

Your lessons

We’ve learnt lots of lessons along the way – every single day – but the biggest lesson is that anything is possible with the right people and the right attitude. That’s what makes it all happen.

It’s been such a rollercoaster ride – we went into this without any business experience. We’ve been lucky enough to engage angel investors who have (incredibly!) been able to find time to help us out. Without them we would have had no idea.

The future

The big vision is to develop our hardware software to be able to deliver results across different industries. Then we want to go global.

More Info: https://www.honeag.com/

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