World Tour

We’ve been on a PhotosynQ world tour of sorts in the last month, starting with Mozfest in London, PhenoDays in France, TechCon in Berkeley, and now Public Lab’s Barnraising in Louisiana!  And, of course, we’ve been doing more method development and Geoff and Robert even managed to whip out a few more units on our march towards 100 to ship to beta testers.  Our media stream from these events are on our g+ page

Explore our data!

Where do I find the data for all these projects? Go to the project’s main page and click on the dashboard button. Expect some nice tutorial videos on how to explore the data soon!

We recently reskinned our website ( and made our initial alpha and beta testing data available to all!

A lot of it is old, performed on old instruments which we’ll clean up before we send out new devices.  Be gentle – we know there’s lots of bad data points, and that the data itself isn’t well documented – we’re working on that!  Also, expect a full video tutorial on this in the next few weeks.  But given all those caveats, here’s some cool ones to check out:

North Dakota State Bean Variety Trials: We measured 150 different crosses of the common bean this summer with Juan Osorno’s lab at NDSU.  You can see clear differences in photosystem 2 efficiency and SPAD.  Definitely some error in the data also – one of the devices was way out of range for PAR light intensity!

MSU North Campus Tree Phenology Research Project: about 20 students from Michigan State University tracked the color and photosynthetic efficiency of 6 different trees on campus over the course of 2 months.  Are red leaves still doing photosynthesis?  What about yellow leaves?  You’ll have to check the data to find out!

Malawi Bean Variety Trials: These were several different fields of different management methods on beans over the course of about 7 weeks.

Assaying Sampling Techniques using Beans: This is an ongoing project where we’re trying to figure out how each leaf on a common bean stalk is responding to light.  We’re measuring every leaf (about 11 or so in these 5 week old beans) for photosystem 2 efficiency, SPAD (greenness), and ECS (measures proton motive force).  We may switch the project as we change and adjust the protocols and user questions, but the data is quite interesting!

World Tour!

MozFest in London.

Met folks from Zooniverse, Open Knowledge Foundation, and got Professor Grey from CERN excited about the idea of making a open scientific hardware conference (hope to post more about that later – if you’re interested in helping to organize please contact me!).  Hooked up with some awesome guys from Chicago Hive who will make great educational partners, and had a long and very educational talk with a gaggle of 14 year old British girls in a workshop about teens and citizen science.  Coolest of all – a DIY atomic force microscope for ~100 bucks… holy mackrel.

Also learned about some really neat tools Mozilla have developed to help the next generation be creators in the open web (instead of consumers in the ‘shopping mall’ web, as they describe it).   Check it out.


PhenoDays in Beaune, France.

PhenoDays is a conference put on by LemnaTec, a company which makes very large scale plant phenotyping systems, focused mainly on imaging technologies for estimating biomass, though it also does chlorophyll fluorescence and even (as we saw in a nearby facility) measures root growth (see picture).

I met lots of great folks here, including a contingent from the Danforth Center, the Australian Phenotyping Center and the UK one (in Wales, the land of no vowels),

I wasn’t sure how we would be received, given that we are kind of the opposite of everyone else there (open data/software/hardware, low cost, measure the field not the greenhouse, uncontrolled conditions).  But actually, everyone loved the concept of an public database of plant health measurements in the field, and in fact we complement (not compete) with the existing plant phenotyping platforms like Lemnatec and Phenospex, because the data we collect can feed interesting ideas, phenotypes, outcomes, and questions into the more controlled chamber-type systems.

Also, we were thoroughly wined and dined. One night we had dinner here… in a ‘chateau’… pretty much a 1000 year old castle.

USAID’s TechCon in Berkeley CA.

TechCon is intended to bring together non-profits (including USAID), universities, for profits, and venture capital to help solve the toughest problems in the developing world.  The venture capital is there to help successful small projects to take it to the next level, as scale up is a big problem in development.

We met more interesting folks than I could mention, though the coolest thing I saw was Planet Labs, who want to take an image of the entire earth once per day.

Chris Zatzke (of pick and place troubleshooting fame) presented the PhotosynQ project in the Innovation Marketplace, a competition among 49 teams funded through USAID. We won the Audience Choice award and we were chosen to take part in Venturewell’s development process (which leads to further funding and possible investment down the road). Basically, Chris rocked it! ‘s barnraising in Cocodrie Louisiana.

Actually, this is happening as we speak – Robert and Geoff are there learning and teaching and having fun.  We’ll be presenting the PhotosynQ platform to the Public Lab community, and hopefully we can get some interest in folks using, forking, or otherwise contributing to our pretty robust data collection, sharing, and analysis backend.

We’re also talking with Public Lab as a distribution partner through their Kits Initiative.  That saves us time in packing/shipping/fulfillment and gets us access to the amazing community that is Public Lab.

Other News

While we spent a lot of time on the road, we have also managed to develop some new and interesting methods.  The next blog post will have lots more detail, but we have successfully implemented the soil biological activity measurement using our CO2 sensor, and a spectroscopic measurement of proton motive force (using ECS).  This is actually kind of a big deal – no other handheld device IN THE WORLD can measure proton motive force, in part because of the accuracy required (an example measurement is shown below).  Our goal is to make sure short enough that people can take the measurement in the field.  More detail in the future, but we’re really excited about this.

measuring proton motive force using electrochromic shift caused by chlorophyll absorbption at 520ishnm

We’ve also managed to make another 3 units, and we will STOP AT NOTHING until we have 100 units in hand!  Nothing is holding us up except all this traveling (which ends this weekend) and hand wringing so we will get it done!

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