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 was selected as one of five finalists of more than 300 companies worldwide for a new Diversity In ClimateTech program for underrepresented founders tackling our world’s most pressing climate crisis. Diversity In ClimateTech is powered by Chloe Capital and Cornell University, and supported by the NYS Energy Research & Development Authority to recruit, educate, inspire and support the growth of companies led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and women founders on the forefront of clean energy innovation. Equally important, Agtools has started USA federal contracts worldwide impacting food and ag supply chain, in particular in the “Northern Triangle of Central America” while deploying a new product RFP for corporate accounts.
Burro has raised $10.9 million Series A funds to accelerate commercialization of its collaborative robot platform. With this funding, Burro plans to address growing demand from both existing and new customers by expanding to 500+ robots. To drive this growth, the company is dramatically increasing the size of its team, while also expanding the capabilities of its product. Along with adding the dexterity needed to pick table grapes, Burro will also extend its mobility autonomy into nursery and berry markets. Burro currently has 90 robots in table grape fields moving fruit 100-300 miles a day autonomously, six days a week. 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 creating an ROI in less than two months. Burros feature a 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. The robots use computer vision and artificial intelligence to learn on the fly and to navigate autonomously from A to B while carrying various payloads.
GeoVisual Analytics continues to deliver specialty crop measurement and predictive analysis tools to help reduce costs and improve yields year after year. These low-cost tools are built on a company-confidential basis around the individual way each grower-processor operates and the crops they grow. With its core foundation built from work with growers in the fields and national research agencies such as NASA, USDA and FFAR, GeoVisual’s data scientists build easily useable information focused on what clients see as the biggest problems or opportunities. GeoVisual claims to be a lean operation funded by family and friends who work side-by-side with the ag community to save money and time.
Hummingbird Technologies 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. The expertise allows the company to go beyond providing analytics and toward servicing the growers’ true needs. 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 few months and welcomes the opportunity to trial its product with growers on the West Coast.
Insero is introducing a new integration between the AgOtter spray controller and the Conservis farm management software that automates and simplifies the entire spray process, improving control and reducing costly mistakes. With this new partnership, a client can easily create a work order in the office, with Conservis, using their regulatory tools. That work order can then be sent via the cloud to their AgOtter to ensure that the application is being sprayed accordingly. With AgOtter’s full spray and flow control, the client can ensure that the application was sprayed by the regulatory standard set in the work order. Once the application is complete all data will then automatically be sent back to Conservis to debit inventory, analyze the data, compare efficiencies and more, all in one easy to use platform.
KipTraq has experienced tremendous growth, adding more than 20 new customers this year alone. Much of that growth starts with recommendations from existing customers and has been split between growers, harvesters and processors (both large and small), showing the diversity of the platform. KipTraq’s tools enable users to convert paper forms to a fully integrated mobile data collection solution in a matter of minutes. The web-based reporting tool adds another level of functionality, enabling easy-to-use analysis and automatic scheduled emailing of reports. KipTraq continues to innovate in food safety, environmental monitoring, field sampling, quality, operations, sanitation, inventory, integration with existing systems, and many other areas thanks to support and guidance from their agriculture customers.