Date: May 14, 2021
Magazine:
May/June 2021

Five years ago, Western Growers launched its Center for Innovation and Technology (WGCIT), housed in the Taylor Farms building in downtown Salinas. WGCIT brings together the ag industry and firms operating in the technology space to actively work on some of agriculture’s most vexing problems.

Below is an update from some of the startups housed in the WGCIT:

Agrosmart

Agrosmart, a digital platform that supports client decision-making for a more productive, sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture, has acquired BoosterAgro, an Argentinian startup that has the main agrometeorological app in Latin America. With the agreement, the companies together now serve more than 48 million hectares in nine countries and join forces to accelerate growth in the region and to develop products that add more value for the entire agribusiness chain. With the acquisition, the Brazilian company plans to expand its presence in Latin America in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay. Founded in 2014, Agrosmart is a leading platform in digital agriculture for emerging countries, providing agronomic insights that support the entire agribusiness chain for a more sustainable production. “With the acquisition of BoosterAgro, Agrosmart expands its user base and the ability to impact more farmers across Latin America, with a simple and efficient solution. It will also strengthen its technological base in mobile and accelerate the development of new products,” said Agrosmart’s Raphael Pizzi.

ApisProtect

ApisProtect has joined the North America Pollinator Protection Campaign and is working with beekeepers across the United States to reduce honey bee losses. Their CEO, Dr. Fiona Edwards Murphy, was recently welcomed to the 30 Under 30 Europe Class of 2021. The team at ApisProtect is keen to work with beekeepers to help generate an additional $98 of value from each hive per year. There is a limited availability for 2021. Visit www.apisprotect.com to find out more.

ChrysaLabs

ChrysaLabs is launching its soil fertility assessment solution commercially this summer and is offering a trial season. It will now be possible to get soil nutrient insights in real-time. ChrysaLabs’ portable probe allows agronomists to extract valuable information such as: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, organic matter, pH, just to name a few. Agronomists can better understand field variability, improve scouting activities, reduce the over application of fertilizers and enhance soil health. The level of accuracy, robustness and reliability we provide with our probe is unmatched in the industry. Contact us to learn more about our trial program and start testing our probes in your field.

Concentric Power Inc.

Concentric Power Inc., an energy technology company deploying intelligent microgrids throughout California, has broken ground on a 5.0 MW microgrid for Tasteful Selections, a vertically integrated farmer-owned, farmer-driven bite-size potato growing, packing and shipping operation. The microgrid will incorporate energy generation, distribution and storage using Concentric Power’s intelligent microgrid control platform to manage all distributed energy assets. It will improve the sustainability of Tasteful Selections’ business while delivering resilience through “islanding” capability for continued operations during power outages within the broader utility grid. Tasteful Selections will own the microgrid, while Concentric Power will design, build, operate and maintain the system for the life of the equipment, which is approximately 25 years. “We’re excited to be working with Concentric Power because their core values align with ours and this microgrid optimizes our operation,” said Bob Bender, CEO and president at Tasteful Selections. “The resilience and sustainability that this project brings to the table shifts our focus from energy stability to our core business rather than the headaches of energy outages and price spikes.”

iFoodDS

iFoodDS recently closed a $15 million Series A funding round led by Insight Partners. iFoodDS will use the funding to accelerate product innovation and support its market and category expansions. The funding round follows a year marked by high demand for the company’s cloud-based platform. Developed specifically for the fresh food industry, the iFoodDS platform gives growers, packers, shippers, processors, foodservice companies, and retailers instantaneous visibility across the supply chain; delivers real-time food safety practice assessment and data capture; and provides solutions to improve the quality of produce deliveries.

Insero

Insero is proud to be a Western Growers member and resident in the WGCIT. Insero is an ag-engineering company focused on helping agri-businesses grow. The company specializes in developing products that are sophisticated in design yet easy to use. Insero has three products currently in the market: AgOtter is a rate controller for ground rigs that helps growers manage labor efficiencies and actively compensate GPA to apply their inputs efficiently. All the data is then collected and sent to the online platform, AgHippo, to assist in reporting compliance and food safety reports. AgPilotX is an innovative guidance system for aerial applicators. AgPilotX is the first and only app-based wireless guidance system in the market. With only three components—Lightbar, Hub, and iPad—the system is designed for simplicity and ease of use. AgHippo Live is Insero’s online website that allows the client to control, monitor, and track the application in real-time.

NEOGEN Corporation

NEOGEN Corporation, a provider of environmental monitoring and safety solutions, is helping food and beverage brands reduce environmental safety risks by offering the NEOGEN Analytics EMP platform to qualified organizations for a full year, at no cost. The NEOGEN Analytics EMP, powered by Corvium, enables remote monitoring of multiple processing plant sites, centralizes environmental testing data, automates reporting for compliance and conformance and improves food safety and quality for produce companies and consumers. Access to an intelligent analytics platform helps growers make data-driven decisions that improve food safety and compliance. Learn more and request a demo at neogen.com/neogen-analytics/

Pago

Pago wrapped up its first full winter vegetable harvest in Yuma and transitioned back into California. With the addition of new California berry growers on the Pago platform in 2021, Pago now provides timekeeping and production tracking software for all commodities grown by Western Growers members including vegetables, citrus, berries, table grapes, wine grapes, stone fruit, nuts and more. Pago recently added new features to support employers who utilize the H-2A program. And, Pago recently launched new barcode scanning features for better production counting and traceability in field harvest operations. Now, Pago customers have the choice of utilizing NFC employee badges or barcode stickers for production counting. Regardless of how time and production data is recorded, the Pago compliance engine helps ag employers comply with all federal, state, and local wage and hour rules. With minimum wage increasing and the ag overtime exemption disappearing in California, Pago is especially valuable for growers who want to pay piece rate but are afraid of wage and hour lawsuits. In support of the Western Growers Global Harvest Automation Initiative, Pago is expanding its developer API to support integration with the new mechanical and robotic equipment making its way into the fields.

Radical Plastics

Radical Plastics is excited to join the WG community. As part of its goal of making a meaningful contribution to the battle against plastic pollution, Radical Plastics has developed a patented catalyst that renders conventional plastics biodegradable in the environment. The first application is for soil degradable mulch films. Radical Plastics mulch films offer all the benefits of conventional plastic mulch without the downsides. Unlike regular plastic films, which must be collected and disposed of at the end of the season, the company’s films can be tilled into the soil where they biodegrade entirely, leaving no toxic byproducts and no microplastics. Radical Plastics has two patents and a growing pipeline of intellectual property as it continues to validate the technology. Radical Plastics ran successful field trials on its soil degradable mulch films in seven locations across the U.S. in 2020. Radical Plastics is expanding its beta testing in 2021 with the expectation of a commercial product launch in Q4. The company’s mission is to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and REDESIGN plastics so we can enjoy their many benefits without polluting our planet.

Tailwater Systems

Tailwater Systems has announced a major expansion of its product line with two new systems targeting unsolved problems in California agriculture. First, they’ve developed an anaerobic digester for converting high strength organic waste to volatile fatty acids (VFA). This VFAs can be used as a carbon source for the company’s nitrate removal systems. VFAs can also be easily converted into an eco-safe replacement for road salt. This system can reduce your ongoing fixed charges related to land application of process water and generate a valuable commodity for resale. The second new system is a hybrid hydroponic brine reduction system. This system replaces water hauling and evaporators at a fraction of the cost. The system uses a combination of carefully curated halophytes to transpire the water and adsorb some of the salt in the brine. Applications include greenhouse RO brine and drainage reduction. Both systems are in the pilot stage.

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