A shared passion
Hone: The device that could revolutionise grain testing
May 06, 2022

What started as a conversation on a field trip has evolved into an exciting Australian technology set to benefit farmers around the world.

Hone. Remember the name because this small, light and portable device could revolutionise sample testing across the grain and other industries.

The Hone device takes traditional testing of grain, soil and other samples and puts the laboratory in the palm of your hand.

Founders Antony Martin and Will Palmer were completing their PhDs in plant breeding when they found themselves in the bush, hacking down sorghum with machetes to collect samples for sugar content testing.

“We had to bring back thousands of these samples and put them through a traditional laboratory testing regime.

“That was going to take us years and we thought there had to be a better way.

Hone co-founder Dr Antony Martin

“Out there, we dreamt up the idea behind Hone, which after a long journey of deep engineering has ended being a device that uses light instead of chemicals to measure the properties of many different sample types.”

Joined by fellow founder Jamie Flynn, Antony and Will set about creating a small, very smart AgTech start-up they called Hone, based in Newcastle, NSW.

They realised early on that their device was incredibly flexible and could test samples from a broad array of substances including grains, oilseeds, plant tissue, soil, wine and beer. 

Narrowing the focus of development was obviously the problem and given Antony and Will had PhDs in Biotechnology (Jamie’s is in Neuroscience), agriculture seemed a logical choice.

Testing wheat for moisture and protein at Hone’s laboratory in Newcastle, NSW.

Excited by Hone’s potential, GrainCorp invested in the start-up in 2021, and now we’re supporting product development and testing through our laboratories in Toowoomba and West Footscray.

The team is developing the device’s sampling software via machine learning, using the ‘gold standard’ results from our labs as reference points.

This requires comparison of literally thousands of sample results, and while that process has refined the algorithms that make it possible for the device to sample grain, it has also proved out its power and genius.

Every time a sample is run through the Hone device, the algorithms get smarter.

Over time, this will enable the device to deliver more and more testing capability beyond grain quality

Testing grain moisture content before harvest can be critical and with the Hone device this is instant and simple.”

Antony Martin

“Currently a grower drives in to a receival site and waits for that result to come in.

“With the Hone device, you get the result right there on the farm and you can get on with harvest.

“Post-harvest, particularly for people with on-farm storage, this is a great way to know your quality before you deliver grain to a buyer.”

Hone aims to have first devices ready for sale by start of harvest this year.

Grain sample poured into the Hone device for spectral analysis.
Testing soil for carbon content…

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