Date: Jan 26, 2021
Magazine:
January/February 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.

At any one time, there are about 50 firms operating in the Center. The following is an update on the activities of some of those firms in an effort to keep the produce industry abreast of the work being done by the resident companies. The information below has been provided by the companies. You can reach any of the residents for more information through WGCIT at wginnovation.com.

Agtools
Agtools was selected as one of the top 20 of 4,500 applications nationwide by Pepperdine University as most fundable company. Also, the company graduated from Techstars Farm to Fork Program in Minnesota, which focuses on companies taking on major food system challenges. It was approved as the tenth company out of more than 500 applications for the Plug and Play FarmTech program in Fargo, North Dakota. Agtools was also accepted into the Larta Institute, an accelerator that caters to companies in the agriculture industry, and into the Boston Consulting Group and Msaada Partners-backed Majira Project, which provides resources to post-accelerator companies that serve underserved communities. It has closed the seed round of $1.45 million and will focus on customer success.

ApisProtect
ApisProtect provides the most robust, unobtrusive, and cost-effective solution on the market for commercial beekeepers. Using ApisProtect, beekeepers can generate an additional $98 of value from each hive per year. In trials monitoring the condition of more than 20 million honeybees worldwide, ApisProtect drove a variety of operational improvements that created an opportunity to increase hive count and productivity. ApisProtect research shows that 80% of manual hive inspections do not require any action on hives but disrupt the bees and risk the loss of a queen.

Augean Robotics
Augean Robotics spent the 2020 season autonomously moving table grapes over nearly 8,000 autonomous miles with eight growers in commercial use. This use saw 15% to 50% productivity gains, across six to eight person teams per Burro, depending on field harvest layout. Now, their team is taking orders on the newest generation 7 Burros, for delivery next year, and will be testing them through the winter months. Beyond this, they are keen to speak with growers in other crops, including those in nursery operations. Finally, each Burro features onboard cameras and is connected online; they are working to leverage this capability by adding crop scouting capabilities using computer vision and sharing crop data with collaborators. Autonomy in the field starts with people-scale collaborative robots and expands from there. If you’d like to learn more about Burro or try one, visit them at www.burro.ai, or contact them at sales@burro.ai.

GeoVisual Analytics
GeoVisual Analytics continues to deliver specialty crop measurement and analysis tools tailored on a company-confidential basis around the way each grower-processor operates and the crops they grow. With its core foundation built from work with national research agencies such as NASA, USDA, and FFAR, GeoVisual’s data scientists build information focused to help your team tackle what you see as the biggest problems or greatest opportunities. A lean operation funded by family and friends, it is boots-on-the-ground backed by top-notch scientists, working side-by-side with you and organizations you trust like Western Growers, YCEDA, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State Monterey Bay, and the University of Arizona, to build unique tools that make your best people even better.

iFoodDS
iFoodDS (iFoodDecisionSciences) has rebranded the combination of iFoodDecisionSciences and HarvestMark as iFoodDS with a new website for the combined solution suite: iFoodDS.com. The company’s experts continue to provide topical insight into food safety and traceability topics on our Knowledge Center at www.ifoodds.com/knowledge-center/blog/, and by teaming with the FDA, Cornell University, United Fresh and others to deliver research and webinars on topics such as COVID protection for food workers, and FDA Rule 204 traceability.

SkyX
Agriculture spraying drones company SkyX (skyx.solutions) completed a series of field trials and demos with Californian vegetable and fruit growers, presented its solution to Placer Mosquito and Vector Control District, and announced its business partnerships with a Missouri-based aerial applicator and a Michigan-based drone company.

SWIIM
SWIIM has formed a partnership with WiseConn Equipment & Telemetry. If growers already have, or are considering, WiseConn telemetry for their farming operation, with the flip of a switch, they can add the power of SWIIM’s water balance data easily, without adding new equipment. SWIIM is able to connect with most already-installed brands of commercial irrigation automation equipment in the field, through its on-farm dashboard platform, which allows us to use the data growers already have to provide detailed, multi-dimensional water use data with the system they have in place. Visit swiim.com for more information.

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