PhotosynQ at Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab (LIL) Conference in Burkina Faso August 13-18, 2017

Following the PhotosynQ Workshop (see Dan’s post), we had moved to the LIL conference site at Laico Ouaga 2000, a high security hotel/conference venue outside of Ouagadougou city.  “Feed the Future” is a program funded by USAID under the US government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative.  This program has been engaging many universities, institutions and private organizations in the US, Africa and Central/South America to improve the quality and management of legume, and contributing to the well-beings of local people. Michigan State University ( is one of the leading institutions contributing researches and new technologies to the world.

One of the designated official languages being French, we had a simultaneous translation through headphone at this conference. The last time when I had to use French in daily basis was almost 20 years ago. Listening to the scientific talks was manageable, but my speaking ability was quite embarrassing. Another challenge was internet connectivity. As Dan mentioned, we had to manage the workshop with almost no internet connection. We were hoping to have a better connection at this best hotel in Burkina Faso, but unfortunately, it seemed the system could not handle a large traffic at once. The conference participants expressed that they had never experienced this in the past anywhere in Africa. It seems it was an isolated incidence, but we came up with some better solutions for the future.

  PhotosynQ booth (From right: Dan, Frank and Atsuko)

 Presentation by Dr. Irvin Widders, Director of Legume Innovation Lab, MSU. PhotosynQ was mentioned as one of the highlights of the ‘Feed the Future’ program.

At the last LIL conference held at Livingston, Zambia, Dave Kramer and Dan TerAvest presented the PhotosynQ project using MultispeQ Beta. This year in Burkina Faso, not only the people from Kramer Lab (Dave, Dan, Donghee Hoh, Isaac Osei-Bonsu and me), but also our PhotosynQ collaborators (Dr. Isaac Dramadri in Uganda, Dr. James Kelly with Dr. Jesse Traub and Dr. Wayne Loescher of MSU, and Dr. Kelvin Kamfwa of U of Zambia) presented more detailed and sophisticated data showing the correlations among photosynthesis, plant responses and gene expressions. It was very encouraging for us to see more people started thinking that the PhotosynQ platform and hand-held devices are useful and practical to the broad applications.

We are very excited about the new challenges, collaborations and long-lasting friendships. And we all hope to see you again!

PhotosynQ Focus

Now that the MultispeQ v1.0 instruments are released, we want to share some stories of how the community is using PhotosynQ technolgies. Today we want to focus on Isaac Osei-Bonsu from Ghana, currently a PhD student in the Kramer Lab at Michigan State University.



Isaac Osei-Bonsu has been a PhotosynQ user since the early beta days in 2015. Over that time, he has collected over 13,000 measurements and created 46 PhotosynQ projects. As we worked towards releasing the new instruments, Isaac was often tasked with testing out new MultispeQ prototypes, and some iterations did not work so well! At the end of the day, Isaac collected over 3,000 measurements with MultispeQ v1.0 prototypes and his feedback helped us to modify and improve the MultispeQ throughout the design and manufacturing process.

Isaac’s background

Isaac hails from the west African nation of Ghana, where he was a research scientist for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI). In Isaac’s own words, “The company is a National Agricultural Research institution which focuses on research on different crop species with the aim to improve agriculture in Ghana.” He studied a wide variety of crops including cowpea, peanut, pepper, eggplants, citrus, mangoes, avocado, pear, papaya and watermelon.

Ghana, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is struggling to achieve food security and develop a robust economy. This means that the government wants farmers to produce more high value crops, like cocoa, for international markets. However, this comes at the expense of land for growing food crops, which is why it is so important to improve the productivity and efficiency of important food crops.

What Isaac is doing now

Isaac arrived at MSU with the help of a Legume Scholars Award which he received from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in 2015. The Legume Scholars Program supports the graduate study of young scientists from developing countries so they can pursue research careers involving grain legumes  (

Isaac’s is studying the photosynthetic response of  grain legumes to abiotic stress in order to improve grain legume production. His interest with automatic plant phenotyping was piqued “by the simple yet powerful nature of the MultispeQ device, connected to the PhotosynQ platform, and its possible use for rapid phenotyping in the field.” Manual phenotyping can be extremely slow and not entirely accurate. The MultispeQ instrument and the PhotosynQ platform make it easy and quick. He now uses the MultispeQ in most of his experiments. He doesn’t just use PhotosynQ because it is easier, but also because it allows him to develop a deeper understanding of abiotic stress responses in grain legumes.

Thank you to Isaac for taking some time out of your busy days to answer all of our questions. Having Isaac around our lab is a pleasure and his input into the PhotosynQ platform and MultispeQ instruments have been invaluable. We hope our instruments can help him as much as he has helped us and wish him luck in his continued research.

MultispeQs on track to ship

Hi everyone – we’ve had 3 days of production with a pace of 24 finished, boxed, ready to ship units per day!  We should be able to fill the first 200 units over the course of the next 2 – 3 weeks.  With a few exceptions, we will be shipping MultispeQs in the order they were received.

Thank you all for your immense patience as we have worked through this long process.

On a personal note, this is my last week as part of the PhotosynQ project.  My hope is that the project continues to strive for the values of open software, hardware, and data in science, and to create tools which are broadly useful to the both the scientific and non-scientific communities.  I know that these ideals are sometimes hard to hit, but if not us then who, and if not now then when?

Thanks to everyone that I’ve interacted with over the years for your patience, enthusiasm, support, and collaboration.  In the future I’ll be on google plus +GregAustic and twitter @GregAustic.   Hope to see you in my next project!

– Greg

First batch of 24 finished MultispeQs!

Hi everyone – it’s been about 3 weeks working here at Saline Lectronics to get the initial build of 250 MultispeQs underway.  There have been lots of ups and downs, but we finally got the motor running.

We can now make about 24 units per day, which means we can fulfill the initial 250 in about 11 working days.  Here are some pictures of the first 24, ready to be put in a box.

Calibrated, validated devices ready to be boxed

Thank you so much Jared, Paul, Jan, Cathy and everyone else at Lectronics for pushing through and getting 250 units through completion… it would probably surprise people how much we had to touch every single one of these devices to get them out into the world.  Hopefully the next 250 are easier than the first 250 🙂

There’s always lots of problems that need to be fixed…

MultispeQ Assembly and how the sausage gets made

For the manufacturing uninitiated, a manufacturing facility can be pretty impressive. Robots, half-million dollar pick-and-place machines and assembly lines with people diligently working on making stuff produce a lot of ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’.

But, automation is only part of the story. There is a lot of decision-making and little details to make things actually work. Our first week in manufacturing has had some setbacks with a few misplaced parts and similar issues, but our manufacturing partner has beefed up their support and Sean, Dan and I have working side by side with them.  We’re refining our production process and ironing out errors.  In all, we are still making decent time.

All production processes look different, but here’s a peek at ours:

1) Pre-assemble case. Many parts are more efficiently pre-assembled in bulk – placing the small light-blocking o-rings in the main case, for example, or installing the battery. These pre-assembly steps are largely done for all 500 units, so once circuit boards are ready the device will snap together pretty quickly.

Pre-assembled components of the MultispeQ case.

2) Assemble + test circuit boards. The 2 circuit boards are connected, bluetooth and DACs are configured, EEPROM (memory) is zeroed out and lights are tested.

connecting and testing circuit boards.

3) Place boards in case. Circuit boards are installed in the case. The PAR sensor, which contains several very small parts which fit precisely around the TCS light sensor, is assembled at this time as well.

Some very small parts related to the PAR sensor which is put in during this phase.

4) Calibrate + validate.  We have 7 individual calibration steps, as well as a final validation on 3 different plants of varying leaf colors and thicknesses.  All of this data is saved to the website and you (the user) can follow up on your devices factory calibration (if you want).

undergoing PAR calibration!
PAR calibration setup

5) Pack and ship.  Now the final devices are packed in their boxes and shipped to labs around the world.

The box the MultispeQ is shipped in.

As of today (Thursday), we have almost all of the pre-assembly work done, and are in phases (2) and (3) above.  Most of next week will be spent calibrating devices and boxing them up to ship.

We’ll keep you in the loop as we go.

– Greg

Production progress: 250 units

Today we started producing the first 250 of our 500 initial production batch at Saline Lectronics, a contract manufacturing company out of Saline MI.  No major hiccups, though we had one or two LEDs which were switched and a filter which was incorrectly sized, but those are fixable in the next day.  Luckily we found them after the first 30 units, and not after the first 500 🙂

We spent most of today prepping the case itself (as you can see in the picture), and did a dry run of a single unit through the entire process (from assembly to calibration) to ensure we had everything we needed.  Bluetooth continues to be challenging (connecting mostly), and it’s now my least favorite communication standard by far!  But once you get it connected once it gets easier after that.

Expect to see more updates in the next few days as we continue to move forward.  The current estimated ship date is March 3rd.  If there are problems or setbacks I will update you as soon as they happen.



Production Update

I was hoping to have more specific information for you guys before creating this post, but we need to provide an update either way.  Here’s the update:

  • The bluetooth module was mis-shipped again (yep, not kidding).  So we managed to find a local supplier.  This time we confirmed it’s the right part by ordering it and installing and testing it first.  The expected delivery date for the full quantity we need is Feb 10th.
  • We are waiting on a response from the factory on when we fit into their schedule once those modules are delivered.  We have been planning on late January, so they’ll need to adjust their schedule to get us in in mid February instead.
  • Everything else is in place to fulfill all of the pre-orders.  Specifically, we have:
    • All parts except the bluetooth module
    • Factory calibration process for each device
    • Factory Assembly instructions
    • Other packaging (instructions, box, etc.)
    • Confirmed precision and range of key measurements on a a subset of 10 – 15 devices
    • Updated website and android app

As soon as we begin manufacturing, I’ll update the blog again with details, progress and pictures.

Thanks everyone for your patience and support.