The Disruption Agenda is a Nedbank CIB and Plug and Play Tech Centre initiative that brought 10 visionary startups from across the globe to South Africa to meet with top business leaders.

Introducing: Koniku – one of the Top 10 innovators that attended The Disruption Agenda

Koniku is the world’s first Neurocomputation company. It was founded on the notion that true Artificial Intelligence (AI) will only be achieved using biological elements.

Led by Founder and CEO, Osh Agabi, Koniku’s mission is to build a device that houses a network of living cells that senses things like a living organism. The company mantra is “Biology is Technology” and all the work it does starts with a premise that the human brain is the most powerful computer ever devised and that capturing that computational power is an engineering problem.

Advancements in silicon technology have been significant, but living cells have an unparalleled capacity to interpret stimuli from the outside world. What sets Koniku apart is its commitment to approach AI from a biological standpoint, and its ability to harness living cells as vehicles for computation.

“Through our belief that Bio is Tech, my team and I have made a massive bet against the consensus,” states Osh Agabi, Founder and CEO of Koniku.”

Based on their contention that the most advanced piece of technology on the planet is wetware, the Koniku team is building a new age with it. They understand sensory systems like taste and smell that are specific sensors and can, therefore, program with DNA, claiming all attributes of how a neuron can be programmed.

Koniku’s immediate focus is to build a business around its first sensory system: smell. Its device, the Koniku Kore, houses living cells that enable accurate detection and monitoring of volatile organic compounds.

“Our device lets you visualise volatile organic compounds and ‘see the air’ around you,” Agabi explains, “so you can see what is beneficial and what is harmful.”

The commercial applications for the device are vast, spanning from explosives detection in airports and screening for bacteria in hospitals to predicting the way foods will taste and smell. Mimicking a dog’s nose, the cells inside Koniku’s device are engineered to grow odorant receptors, allowing the user to design a device to detect anything.

“The use of olfaction is already been commercialised through dogs,” Agabi says, “as trained dogs are used to smell for contraband and even identify cancer in humans. Koniku’s mechanised nose offers what dogs cannot, namely precision, sensitivity, and scale.”

He points to a variety of potential applications, including:

  • Security – The future is convenient, contactless, concealed and continuous. Koniku is scalable to any infrastructure, airport, stadiums or event.
  • Explosives detection – No technology confidently detects IEDs. Radar cannot tell the difference between an explosive and any other obstruction. The Koniku Kore can. The air is full of quality data and Koniku can analyse it and gather data to get at the threat.
  • Agriculture – Koniku can detect volatiles on the field for farmers. It offers non-destructive mass screening of fruits. Imagine being notified when the best fruits are ready for picking and directed precisely to which ones are bad and should be destroyed.

Koniku comes from a Nigerian word which literally translates to ‘has no death’, meaning “immortal”. The team says their inspiration comes from Hydras, which were the first organisms to have a nervous system and are also an immortal species.

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