Farmers see legumes not only as an important crop, but they also rely on them to replenish nitrogen in their soil; a process that works thanks to the rhizobium (soil bacteria) growing in the legume root nodules. To optimise legume performance, farmers purchase inoculants and infect their legumes prior to sowing. This is a costly practice and an inappropriate inoculation can reduce profitability.

If farmers can identify the type and optimum amount of rhizobium, it can increase their legume yields, soil nitrogen, and save them money. WA based company MALDI-ID collaborated alongside Murdoch University and Mabritec AG to investigate the use of process called MALDI-TOF MS to do just this. Initial research and development of MALDI-TOF MS for rhizobia identification involved screening sub-clover paddocks across Australia. This demonstrated the benefits delivered to farmers and showed that the novel technology was robust and useful in a timely and cost-effective way.

Participation in the Curtin Ignition program aided early commercialisation of this technique and provided a first step into the business world and an understanding of what is required to commercialise. Further market research was completed while operating as a consultancy through Murdoch University. A need for their service was evident by 2016; the market was ready and their price-point was (and still is) competitive.

In 2017, MALDI-ID launched as an independent start-up, gaining room to grow as a business. Start Something and CERI programs aided the development of MALDI-ID and they have considered the first year as a commercial start-up as a big success. In 2017, MALDI-ID was a finalist in the Western Australian Innovator of the Year program and were awarded a State Government Innovation Voucher. In 2018 they were the recipient of an ABARES award, and have recently participated in the AgriStart Harvest Accelerator program.

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