Nancy Schellhorn and RapidAIM
We recently caught up with Nancy Schellhorn, CSIRO Alumni and CEO and co-founder of RapidAIM.
RapidAIM fast facts
- Spun out of CSIRO in 2018
- Commercialising novel insect sensing technology – hardware enabled software plays with proprietary low-power capacitance sensors.
Nancy explained that RapidAIM is on a mission to reduce the chemical intensity of agriculture. “We’re creating the future of sustainable pest management for our food and fibre systems, ” Dr Schellhorn said.
Since spinning out of CSIRO in 2018, The RapidAIM team has grown to 12. “Our people are super talented, highly skilled at their craft, and want to make a difference in the world. We’re a team of business leaders, engineers (software, hardware, firmware), data scientists and biologists. Magic happens at RapidAIM!”
Nancy originally worked at CSIRO as a Principal Research Scientist and proudly remembers creating and leading the Pest Suppressive Landscape team and being awarded the Chairman’s Medal alongside Paul De Barro.
Her work at CSIRO led to the invention of the technology that provides the platform for RapidAIM insect sensing. Through the programs offered within CSIRO she was able to start the company, “The creation of the ON Accelerator and the subsequent push for scientists to have greater impact with their science was eye opening and career changing.”
The RapidAIM team is still connected with the Pest Suppressive Landscape (PSL) team led now by Cate Paull. Nancy continues to collaborate with CSIRO and worked on a joint Kick Start project that helped get their product to market. She has recently published an opinion piece on pesticide use with Sarina Macfadyen in The Guardian.
Nancy reflects that great collaboration is built on great relationships. “We’re still connected with the PSL team; Hayden Forrester (Equity Portfolio Manager CSIRO) represents CSIRO on our Board as an observer and has been terrific – making connections and supporting us through his networks.”
RapidAIM takes the guesswork out of pest management. Digital crop protection can tell producers/farmers the insect pest threat in their region and where pests are on their property – information delivered in real-time to their smart phones. This can shift behaviour away from ‘just-in-case’ insurance sprays.
The novel insect sensing technology is a hardware enabled software play with proprietary low-power capacitance sensors. Similar to the fingerprint unlock ID on a smart phone, the sensors are able to detect and discriminate insects that arrive at the device.
Nancy’s tips for anyone thinking of making the move from researcher to CEO
- Make sure that you have a pathway of support within the organisation (CSIRO); understand who the decision makers are, the time frames for exit, their position on the licensing of any parts of the technology and the on-going support.
- It is an amazing opportunity and incredibly rewarding to use science skills and training to take the innovation to market; its fast paced – lots of highs and lots of lows, but I wouldn’t change it.
- Find a mentor or two. Someone who has been around the block, so to speak. Someone who’s presence, knowledge and wisdom will give you courage. You’ll need it!
- Connect with other founders and participate in the start-up ecosystem events. The start-up community is amazing and very helpful and supportive – it’s a great place to share, exchange wins and losses, and normalise life leading a start-up company. The CEO role can be lonely and difficult, but rewarding and amazing!