There is competition, and then there is competition with a quarter of a million dollars on the line in front of a live audience filled with people hanging on your every word.
We’re referring, of course, to the AgSharks® Competition, which will return to the 2022 Western Growers Annual Meeting. This year’s Annual Meeting will be held at the Venetian Resort Las Vegas from Nov. 2-5, 2022.
It’s the fifth year of the successful—and exciting!—AgSharks partnership between WG and S2G Ventures, the direct investment arm of Builders Vision, a platform that partners with entrepreneurs who seek solutions to the world’s challenges in the food, agriculture, oceans and clean energy markets.
“AgSharks leads as the only pitch competition that offers agtech startups an audience with the biggest agricultural companies across the globe,” said Audre Kapacinskas, Principal at S2G Ventures. “The combination of exclusive access to hundreds of industry leaders, plus investment capital to fuel growth, are two elements that are crucial for a startup’s success in this industry.”
AgSharks was first held in 2017, and through the competition, past winners Hazel Technologies and Burro have since brought their products from development to market.
Hazel Technologies has raised about $88 million in funding over six rounds and is advancing the industry with sachets that extend the shelf life of fresh produce by as much as three times.
Burro raised a $10.9 million Series A round in September 2021 led by S2G Ventures and Toyota Ventures and continues to help solve farmers’ labor woes with the expansion of its fleet of autonomous robots to farms across the west. The company’s 2018 AgSharks win came after also participating in the competition the prior year.
“We’ve been very persistent,” said CEO Charlie Andersen at the time his company won. “We pitched last year and didn’t win. Since then, we’ve assembled the world’s best team, found initial customers and have been through a whirlwind of progress. We believe that we are the best play in the world in which to deploy capital into agtech robotics, and I’m glad that we won the judges over this year.”
It’s a success story that very well could happen again in 2022. “With a proven track record of rewarding cutting-edge agtech innovators and enabling them to grow their businesses, we look forward to this year’s competitors engaging in a live, spirited back-and-forth with our members on how best to use technology to solve the most pressing needs of our industry,” said Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia. “With its real-world financial stakes for the start-ups and the potential long-term benefits for our members, the AgSharks Competition is one of the highlights of our Annual Meeting.”
During this year’s competition, three finalists will be able to pitch their innovations in front of a live audience of the world’s largest specialty crop growers, shippers and processors to potentially win a $250,000 minimum investment. A judging panel of growers and venture capitalists will make the final decision as to which of the finalists are eligible to receive the funding.
In addition to potential investment capital, the winner(s) will receive international recognition, mentoring from S2G and WG, potential access to farm acreage to pilot their technologies and access to WG’s expansive network of leading fresh produce companies.