Two innovative companies—both using byproducts from fresh fruits and vegetables—received the top two Thrive Accelerator awards at The AgTech Summit held in Salinas in July.
Nuritas was the winner of the top award for the development of a process that extracts nutrients from plant and food products at the molecular level. Nora Khaladi, who is founder and chief scientific officer for this start-up, explained that fresh food contains peptides that have very interesting health benefits. The company has developed methods for extracting these ingredients and developing life-changing products that can address major health concerns such as inflammation, aging and combating harmful bacteria.
The Thrive Accelerator Sustainability award went to California Safe Soil. This firm is using fresh produce shrink from the retail sector—specifically Save Mart Supermarkets—to develop a fertilizer-type product that is showing great promise in greatly increasing yields. Founder Daniel Morash said the break-through technology creates a loop by recycling waste product into an input that he said increases plant vigor and has produced 25 percent increase in yields in test plots. The firm is currently building facilities near Save Mart Supermarkets to capture this product. He noted one store creates enough waste in one day to provide the material to treat one acre for one year. The source of the waste product is obviously readily available.
The awards were presented during a panel discussion on the Thrive Accelerator program that featured the companies that were most responsible for developing that effort, including SVG Partners, Western Growers, Taylor Farms and Verizon. SVG representatives John Hartnett and Chris Boody noted that the 2015/2016 Thrive Accelerator program is about to kick off with applications for inclusion on the website (www.thriveaccelerator.com). Hartnett said this type of incubator process has been successful in other sectors of industry and allows for collaborative efforts to address issues of concern.
Bruce Taylor of Taylor Farms said the biggest impediment to advances in the ag space has been the competitive nature of those in the farming community. He has been heartened by what he called a “paradigm shift” in thinking that has allowed for collaboration among competitors. He said many of the issues in agriculture are much too large for one company to tackle alone. In fact, he said technology advancements tend to need investment and adoption from multiple firms to succeed.
Hank Giclas of Western Growers said the association is launching its innovation center precisely to be a catalyst in the collaborative process. The association has also committed funds to invest in the best ideas with the greatest utility.