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Lightning strikes with cultural-inspired innovation to encourage plant growth

Harnessing the power of lightning to advance the science of food production may seem like an impossible task, but a pair of Cairns-based entrepreneurs are turning that dream into reality with Rainstick, an agritech innovation that’s helping speed up growth rates, increase yield and stop mould before it sets in.

Lighting Strike in trees at night

Agritech entrepreneur Darryl Lyons has spent the past year looking back to leapfrog forward in the field of food production.

From tens of thousands of years of cultural knowledge to hundreds of years of scientific literature, delving into the past has given Darryl and Co-founder Mic Black the inspiration and information to form Rainstick, an agritech startup named among Australia’s next crop of “deep tech gamechangers” by the CSIRO.

The pair are now seeking investors and collaborators with an appetite for transformational technology to help build on the success of their trials to create a scalable, commercial product ready for market.

- Interested in partnering with or investing in Indigenous electrobiology startup, Rainstick? Visit growAG. here to learn more.

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Rainstick is a novel indigenous Australian biotech startup combining traditional knowledge systems and modern electrokinetics for the future of food.
  • Location

    Queensland, Australia

  • Organisation type

    Startup or Scaleup or SME

RELATED: Opportunity to invest in the tiny chip set to revolutionise animal healthcare^

Research rewarded with electric idea for food and fungi

Shitake mushrooms

Rainstick is a novel wireless delivery and control system that mimics the bioelectric effect of thunderstorms to deliver targeted electrical frequencies to plants and fungi, which instruct them to carry out certain biological functions relating to areas such as growth rate and yield.

It was inspired by the deep cultural knowledge of Darryl’s ancestors, the Maiawali people of Far West  Queensland, coupled with scientific research papers exploring  electroculture dating back to the 1700s.

“If you look at Indigenous tribes around the world … everyone realises how important lightning was to the really high nutritional and medicinal value of mushrooms and plants,” said Darryl.

“Western society started looking into it in the 1700s, through an area called electroculture, and there's 100’s of research papers, most of them from Japan, where people have been trying to understand the effect of electrifying mushrooms. We looked at all that research and worked out that it wasn't commercially scalable, and it was really labour intensive.

“When you combine traditional science and modern science, you can potentially get the opportunity to leapfrog those breakthroughs that we need.”

Rainstick Co-founder, Darryl Lyons

Darryl and Mic set out to develop a system that could scale up for use in modern agriculture. Initial trials of their “lightning generator” were held in home garages and cold rooms until a $20,000 grant from the Minderoo Foundation’s Dream Ventures program helped them set up a research lab to test their proof of concept.

By the end of 2022 the initial results were in. Applying optimised electrical frequencies, or “Rainstick recipes” as Darryl calls them, to cultivated shiitake mushrooms delivered 20 per cent increases in both growth rate and yield.

The process also resulted in the direct inhibition of six species of mould on the mushrooms. With about 30% of mushrooms sold in European retail stores exceeding the recommended fungicidal levels, Darryl said Rainstick could provide an alternate solution to the use of pesticides.  

“In the first instance, we've made shiitake mushrooms grow faster and bigger. But we believe we will be able to create very specific profiles or characteristics in both mushrooms and plants to improve food quality and increase the nutrient density of food,” said Darryl.

“This project is also exploring how we can clean up our production system and come up with new systems so that we're not continually using pesticides and fertilisers to increase our yield.”

RELATED: Investment opportunity: On-farm trials platform giving agribusiness and growers more accurate insights^

Rainstick eyes potential beyond mushroom industry

Rainstick has just commenced on-farm trials on a commercial mushroom farm on the Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland, where the team  will be working “quite intensely” over the next six months.

Chief Thunderstorm Creator, Mic Black stated that they’ve also started new lab-based trials with wheat and strawberry seedlings, which are demonstrating that this technology has an effect on many biological forms.

“There are over 50,000 possible electrical conditions that could stimulate plants and fungi, so we are building a way to predict which ones will maximise results,” said Mic.

“Over the next 12 months Rainstick will validate a few use cases with the help of Australian research partners, and then look to open up a variety of plant  markets.”

Darryl and Mic believe Rainstick has the potential to add value in other markets beyond food production as well, such as bioremediation, helping to remove toxins and pollutants from soil and water, or assisting in the viability of new bioproducts like bioplastics, leathers, and other materials.

To explore its market potential further and accelerate  growth, Rainstick is raising a SAFE  pre-seed funding round and seeking engagement from  deep tech and impact investors. The team also invites collaborations with early adopters, growers, synthetic biology labs and seed producers interested in leveraging  novel technology into a potential joint venture and licenced partnerships.

Darryl admits, “What we’re doing is very technical, but how industry will use it is not. We have something different that industry hasn’t tried yet and that’s very promising. ”           

“We're halfway through our investment round, we've got a specific target of $750,000, which will give us some leeway to show that we can do this on a more commercial scale, and we've raised $350,000 so far.

“We’re also open to partners who may be interested in the use of technology. One of our team is over in the US at the moment, and we're getting a really good reception from lots of companies over there who are very interested.”

Learn more about Rainstick’s unique opportunity on growAG. here.     


^This investment opportunity is only for professional and sophisticated investors as defined in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). The content of this opportunity is intended for use by persons having professional experience in matters relating to investments and must not be acted or relied upon by any other person including, without limitation, retail clients.

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