Date: Jan 14, 2022
Magazine:
January/February 2022

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:

Agtools

Agtools provided University of Arizona Research Project and Fresh Produce Association of America the first phase of several datasets for a study on bell peppers and cucumbers to evaluate and understand market trends as they relate to competition between various domestic and international growing regions. Also, Agtools was invited to present public comments under the Federal Trade Commission Act on how supply chain issues are affecting competition in consumer goods markets with retailers, wholesalers, consumer goods suppliers and others. To read Agtools comments and recommendations for a worldwide USA leadership, visit www.agtechtools.com, go to section “Legislative.” The team is busy preparing a platform to deploy data services to farmers across the Americas, including the Caribbean, with the largest telecommunications provider in the hemisphere.

Boost Biomes

Boost Biomes delivers resilient microbial solutions that offer more robust performance, last longer and prevent the spread of pathogens. Based on a proprietary technology to understand and leverage the interactions between soil microbes, Boost develops high performance microbiome products sourced from the native biodiversity of relevant natural environments. The company takes biologicals to the next level: ecology.

Our first product is a biofungicide that prevents diseases like powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis, and will come to market late in 2022. To learn about grower trials for the 2022 season, please email trials@boostbiomes.com.

Burro

Burro was recently recognized as a 2022 World Ag Expo “Top-10 New Product Winner.” Come visit us at Booth GS6, just South of the Farm Credit Dairy Center, or reach out to Sales@burro.ai to see how you can bring Burro to your field in 2022.

As the 2021 season came to a close, Burro had 90 robots in table grape fields moving fruit 100-300 miles a day autonomously, six days a week. Instead of farmworkers walking several miles a day with a 250-pound wheelbarrow full of grapes in the heat, Burro allows workers to stand in the shade and pick/pack with a continuous flow of fruit out of the field. Burros are already transforming worker productivity with one Burro enabling six-plus people to harvest up to 48 percent more fruit per day for a less than two-month ROI.

Burros feature a novel and patent-pending approach called Pop Up Autonomy, which means they work immediately out of the box by enabling everyone in a working environment to become an operator. They do not require a centralized control or installation of burdensome infrastructure. Instead, the robots use computer vision and AI to learn on the fly and to navigate autonomously from A to B while carrying various payloads.

Ganaz

Ganaz will officially announce in mid-January its new added feature to its People Management Platform, the Ganaz MasterCard Payroll Card significantly reducing or eliminating costs associated with traditional payroll and paper paychecks in agriculture and food processing industries.

Agriculture and food processing are among the last industries to move away from paying people with paper checks. Many workers are still unbanked, which makes it hard to implement 100 percent direct deposit. The cost of paper checks to workers and employers is staggering; industrywide, it adds up to more than $1 billion.

“Given how slim margins can be for growers and how hard it is to attract and retain labor in agriculture, keeping that wealth in the pockets of growers and workers is critical,” said Hannah Freeman, Co-Founder and CEO at Ganaz.

GeoVisual Analytics

GeoVisual continues to build easy to adopt, low-cost specialty crop measurement and scheduling tools that help make decisions to save money and time. Built on a company-confidential basis, without the need for expensive changes to the existing IT systems, their work integrates into the way each group likes to operate. Using experience from boots on the ground, combined with ongoing research with NASA, USDA and collaborations with YCEDA and WG, GeoVisual specialists focus on what the biggest problems or opportunities a company faces. The firm is funded by family and friends, and notes that a user will always own its own confidential data.

HeavyConnect

HeavyConnect was announced as a winner in the FDA's Traceability Challenge for their easy-to-adopt food safety management system. Company Founder & CEO Patrick Zelaya shared their enthusiasm for being a part of the FDA’s New Era of Food Safety Blueprint and working with producers of all sizes to simplify regulatory compliance.

In September, FDA announced the 12 winners of its New Era of Smarter Food Safety Low- or No-Cost Tech-Enabled Traceability Challenge, which was launched as part of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010. There were 90 submissions.

HeavyConnect’s External Link Disclaimer provides cloud-based digital traceability and compliance documentation solutions, including an intuitive mobile app that allows producers to capture traceability data in the field and seamlessly share it across the supply chain.

Hummingbird Technologies

Hummingbird Technologies is hiring. Get in touch with jack@williams-ellis.com to find out more. Hummingbird is an artificial intelligence business that provides advanced crop analysis to its customers by using proprietary machine learning algorithms applied to remote sensing captured imagery. Hummingbird generates variable rate fertilizer applications to increase the uniformity of plant sizes across the field before peak nitrogen uptake. These applications are delivered through side-dressers and allow growers to reduce nitrogen usage by up to 70 percent while increasing yield by up to 10 percent. Hummingbird has been working with selected partners in California and Mexico over the past year and is expanding its trials network for 2022.

iFoodDS

iFoodDS continues to enhance its comprehensive food supply chain platform for food safety, traceability and quality management. iFoodDS announces the coming release of a new Shelf Life Monitoring solution. Available as a standalone solution or bundled with iFoodDS’ Quality Insights solution, Shelf Life will help identify, manage, monitor and measure fresh food degradation and variability to improve freshness and reduce waste. The iFoodDS solution helps you ensure the consistency of the freshness and shelf-life of the produce you sell, leading to increased sales and customer satisfaction.

iTradeNetwork

Q4 has been very busy! Four hundred iTrade customers are currently participating in the Beta Program for its next-generation trading platform to be released in early 2022, and iTrade has added 60 new buying organizations to the platform for growers and suppliers to trade with. Also, OrderMaestro—a new procurement solution for foodservice operators—was released, as well as new capabilities for label-less traceability, incident alerts, food safety event impact analysis and recall management, which help suppliers instantly assess their exposure during an event as well as visually confirm the locations of their products across the supply chain via a set of insights dashboards and maps.

NAÏO Technologies

Naïo Technologies is a winner of the 2022 World Ag Expo Top-10 New Product with its New Smart Autonomous Robot, which will be unveiled in Tulare, Calif. in February 2022. The robot offers a sustainable, serviceable and smart farming solution combining high-edge technology in robotics and AI. Naïo engineered a light electric and autonomous ag robot for sustainable reasons: no carbon emission, no chemical use. The autonomous high precision robot is dedicated to large-scale vegetable crops and is a sustainable alternative to the use of herbicides that respects soils, improves working conditions and collects data for smart farming. It can also carry any implement that growers are using at the back of the robot thanks to its three-point attachment. It’s Plug & Play!

Rantizo

Rantizo’s turnkey system for in-field drone applications has now received a significant boost in productivity due to the use of a larger drone (the T-30). For reference, the tank size on the newest offering is triple the size of what was being using previously. Larger tanks mean more productive and cost-effective options for crop protection applications. As the first company approved to operate the T-30 in the U.S., this means Rantizo’s nationwide network of contractors now have the option to add larger drones to their fleet to service growers.

Rantizo lists its value proposition as little-to-no crop damage when compared to conventional sprayers; major cost savings on inputs with spot-spraying capability; improved soil health due to no machinery-caused soil compaction; more versatility in application, less reliance on weather due to precise application; and an additional method of cover crop broadcast seeding.

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