An Indiana-based startup is training artificial intelligence to detect parasites in animals, crops, and eventually humans.

QMIRA, headed by CEO Steven Gerrish, has been deploying its AI technology to detect parasites in animal fecal matter and is now expanding to apply its work to diagnose and treat crops and, eventually, humans. Gerrish will present at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, April 10.

While QMIRA has already using its products to detect parasites in animals, expanding into the realm of soil and human diagnostics aligns with the company’s view, detailed on its website, that the collective health of our planet’s various species is a layered and intertwined issue.

QMIRA’s agriculture-oriented technology will take the form of an automated machine that goes into fields to detect, diagnose, and treat issues—for example nematodes, of which there are thousands of species, and which have a pronounced and negative impact on annual crop yields. Once parasites are found, they can be treated; importantly, crops that aren’t infected don’t get needlessly treated under this method.

“We’ll do it during the growing season,” Gerrish said, “when [the parasites are] active, when they’re attacking the plant.” This method is what Gerrish calls a “point-of-production intervention.”

The device for this purpose is in development presently.

“People were kind of shocked about the idea of doing this because we’ve not done it before in agriculture,” Gerrish noted.

He said their product has to demonstrate economic feasibility, and it will likely be offered as a service initially. The technology QMIRA uses is a product of a long process of trial and error research.

“The challenges were actually the separation of organisms from the fecal matter or the soil,” Gerrish said. “We failed at it pretty hard the first couple years, and then we got pretty good at it.”

Gerrish has been working with startups for some time in association first with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and later with the Purdue Research Foundation. He has a background in plant breeding and genetics and has grown corn himself.

“I could’ve been doing things a little better if I would have been really understanding the soil,” he said.

In the future, the hope is to apply QMIRA’s innovative technological solution to human water sources.

“We’re on the verge of revolutionizing American medicine, I think,” Gerrish said.

For more information on QMIRA, visit 1 Million Cups Fargo takes place each Wednesday from 9:15-10:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Posted in

Austin Gerth