December 15, 2020
Senecio Robotics, an Israeli early-stage company, develops a mobile automated mosquito factory for monitoring and control of mosquitoes.
Senecio Robotics notes with more than 2,000 early-stage companies applying for the EU EIC Accelerator Pilot May cutoff, only 64 companies were selected, following intense due diligence of the company, patent portfolio, market, team, and technology. The blended investment includes both equity and grant components with the grant agreement recently signed.
Senecio Robotics adds with nearly 700 million people infected with a mosquito-borne disease every year, as well as the increase in mosquito populations driven by a warming climate, it is a massive and growing challenge to fight them using only traditional approaches.
Senecio Robotics automates the most environmentally green solution ever invented for combating mosquitos, the sterile insect technique (SIT). While SIT has been widely proven for many hardy insects like Fruit Flies, it has only been done on a relatively small scale with fragile mosquitos. Senecio has focused on overcoming the largest challenges for widespread mosquito SIT adoption, which requires automation to deal with the very large numbers.
According to Senecio Robotics founder and CEO, Hanan Lepek, “We are already in discussions with selected health and local authorities as well as potential distributors who are all very excited about the technology. We are currently exploring locations to build a full working demo-site.”
According to Lepek, “We have been working hard in the last few years, and believe we have solved what is required for operators to start using SIT on a large scale. Our portfolio incorporates the entire gamut of the solution from monitoring and pooling (collection of dead mosquitoes testing for potential viruses), to production and release. This will be provided both as distinct modules to solve partners’ individual requirements or as a turnkey mosquito factory addressing the needs from end to end.
“The first step in addressing mosquitoes is the understanding of their abundance. To date, mosquitoes caught in traps were counted one by one and classified by experts. Senecio Robotics develops an AI-driven solution that automates key parts of the process, enabling interested parties to create a quick and accurate understanding of the local mosquito distribution. The solution also gained interest from agriculture companies interested in monitoring insects impacting agriculture.
“Next, comes the production of the sterile males, including automated larva feeding, counting and sorting. Within a few days, the larva evolves into pupae before turning into sterile male adult mosquitoes that can be released.
“Currently, both Senecio Robotics automated pupae sorter, as well as AI-based adult sex separators and packaging, are being validated at partner sites within the US.
“Senecio Robotics sorting solution comprises vision systems to identify and extract adult females. At the exit of the factory, small vans will pick up the filled cartridges, ready for release in the city. The release technology was already invented in 2014 and tested in field trials in 2015, as well as having granted patents in multiple countries, both for van release, drone release, aircraft release, and hand-held release. The release plan is managed by our mission planning algorithm, also an allowed patent, automatically integrating data imported from the monitoring solution.
“Partners can use their own sterilization method as we are indifferent to that, and can either use X-Ray, Wolbachia, IIT, RNAi, CRISPER, or any other option which works best for them.
“Our automated monitoring solution, as well as Senecio Robotics second-generation sorting and packaging, is expected to be shipped to our partners by summer 2021, with the first complete end-to-end demo-site demonstrated before the end of next year. Regulatory work is already underway and has garnered positive feedback from the regulatory bodies, who are excited about having our technology deployed.
“Soon, our partners will be able to integrate any parts of the solution into their current process, ranging from automated monitoring or gender separation to a full-blown robotic factory operated at their facility, with the production capacity of millions per week supporting potential campaigns over entire communities. The solution will be provided at an initial set-up fee plus subscription over time, making the SIT affordable and accessible.
“This exciting milestone brings us closer to our bold vision of a world without mosquito-born disease,” says Senecio Robotics CEO Hanan Lepek.