CHENNAI: Farmers, especially those engaged in cultivating crops like banana, beans and tomatoes often get stumped by pests. These pests go unidentified and multiply rapidly destroying the entire crop because they are invisible to the naked eye. However, Phytocom Pharmaceuticals, a start-up company located in KRIBS-BioNest inside KINFRA-HighTechPark in Kochi, has come up with a solution.
The one-year-old company, which is a pet project of RS Santhosh, came into being with an initial investment of Rs 15 lakh. “I started out by bootstrapping. The Startup Mission loaned me `6 lakh and by December this year, the amount invested in the company will be Rs 29 lakh,” he said.
Santhosh has developed a lateral flow device which will help detect plant diseases as early as possible. This, in turn, will help destroy or treat the affected plant thereby rescuing the other crops. “I started thinking about developing such a device after coming across a banana plantation that had been affected by the bunchy-toppy disease. Once the plantation gets infected, the farmer has no other option but to destroy the entire crop. It lands the farmer in a financial cesspool,” he said.
According to Santhosh, the device costs Rs 70 to Rs80. “Instead of losing Rs 20,000 or more to pests, a farmer needs to buy only a few devices and destroy the pests,” he said. He added that the device has been developed to detect both DNA and RNA type of viruses.
“We have conducted successful field runs using the prototype of the device. The device will be launched in the market by August or September 2019,” said Santhosh. According to him, a single device is needed to test a plant. “So if a farmer has over 1,000 plants, he will need to buy that many and this, in turn, may become a burden to him rather than a boon. So, we have devised a method with the help of which a farmer can minimise the use of the devices. The field can be divided into sections or groups so that a single device can be used to test a single group. This can be repeated until the affected the plant is identified and removed. The cost will be less,” he said.
“With a strong R&D team, Phytocom provides molecular biology services to individuals, companies and institutions,” he said.
In a nutshell
● Addressing a pressing issue for farmers, Phytocom Pharmaceuticals created a device that detects plant diseases early.
● Founder, RS Santhosh, initially invested Rs 15 lakh into it and then loaned 6 lakh more from Startup Mission
● The device itself only costs Rs 80 and will be launched in September next year
● Phytocom is also looking for collaborations in the country and abroad