July 15, 2020


About 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. Following is a self-generated update on some of the firms in the Center designed to keep the produce industry abreast of the work being done by the resident companies. You can reach any of the residents for more information through WGCIT at wginnovation.com (This issue, we present the updates in reverse alphabetical order.)

In early June, WaterBit installed its pump control solution which enables growers to control irrigation from the water source to the drip line in a precise, targeted fashion. Features include the ability to remotely start and stop irrigation pumps, monitor soil moisture and irrigation line health, and open and close valves from a mobile phone or computer. This solution is currently being field tested and will be generally available later this summer. We also released a video the WaterBit MicroBlock Valve which enables irrigation at a site-specific, sub-block level—on youtube.com.

Tailwater Systems is in full production with its nitrate removal systems in 2020 (US patents pending). Its systems are the highest performance and lowest cost solution for removing nitrate from any kind of water. Unlike filtration, Tailwater’s solution uses biology to convert nitrate into nitrogen gas and carbon dioxide and produces no costly waste by-product. New systems are integrating on-site catchment basins and zero discharge strategies. The company is also prototyping two new proprietary product lines this year—one to up-cycle high strength organic waste into a salable product and another biological systems approach to desalting agricultural run off. Both systems are expected to go into production in 2021.

SWIIM is continuing to make advancements to its reporting and user dashboard features, including enhanced alerts which notify growers as soon as they appear to be under- or over-irrigating. Another exciting development, which has evolved from conversations with our growers, is a sustainable water certification program. SWIIM will provide qualifying clients with stickers and/or labels that can be applied to product, as well as allow them to use the certification logo in their marketing materials, designed to showcase their commitment to sustainable water and innovative irrigation management, which literally is what SWIIM stands for!

Sapphire Automation has led efficiency optimization in high tech and is now utilizing its sensing and predictive analytics platforms to focus on ag and food. Its software and hardware solutions collect real time production data, machine status, events, cycle time and send alarms. The system works as a stand-alone solution or can sit on-top of existing equipment in a manufacturing or processing facility. Using Sapphire’s Dashboards, users can onsite or remotely monitor the performance of the factory and availability of the assets. Using Machine Learning, IIoT, Cloud and Big Data technology help to improve production efficiencies that will increase volume, quality, profitability and competitive advantage while reducing downtime.

ripe.io: The company has announced a collaborative effort with FoodLogiQ, IBM Food Trust, and SAP to achieve blockchain network interoperability in food supply chains. The announcement: “GS1 US, in collaboration with four leading solution providers, has confirmed that multiple traceability systems can interoperate to transmit and exchange information about a product’s journey throughout the supply chain to support end-to-end food traceability. The first phase of a multi-phase proof-of-concept focused on supply chain visibility and included solutions that leveraged blockchain, cloud and other traceability technology from FoodLogiQ, IBM Food Trust, ripe.io and SAP.”

Novihum Technologies is making soils better with products that contain high-value organic matter like what is found in the best soils. This is possible because it developed an advanced production technology and rigorous scientific protocols that guarantee the consistency and quality of its products. Its soil enhancers counter the loss of organic matter in soils, achieving in hours what takes years under natural conditions, with immediate and long-term results. It has grown its U.S. team with the addition of Doug Walters, sales director, Southeast. Also, an additional warehouse has been added in Miami, FL, improving the supply chain to better service new and existing customers.

Naïo: The company has hired Marcus Dunning as its sales director for North America. He grew up in Northern California and moved to the Central Coast to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in 1995. He has lived on the central coast of California ever since and currently resides in Paso Robles. “Automation is the future of agriculture, and Naïo’s solution is a perfect fit for growers,” he said. “I see the tremendous opportunity for growth in North America and want to be a part of driving that growth. We need to grow our customer base as well as our brand recognition within the U.S. vegetable market. To accomplish these goals, Naïo is currently building its U.S. team as well as expanding its fleet of robots. It now has three Dinos in the U.S. and looks to expand this fleet even further by the end of the year.”

iFoodDecisionSciences has a few truly exciting updates. The company has wholly acquired HarvestMark, making iFood the first and only comprehensive solution for the entire supply chain, providing full traceability accompanied by relevant and associated Food Safety and Quality data. iFood offers an easy-to-use software service to capture FSQA data, implement real-time process controls, generate customized reporting and dashboards, and leverage cutting-edge predictive technology (which the FDA is clamoring for).

HeavyConnect continues to lead innovation in the produce industry with an easy to use in-field solution to compliance documentation. This July, HeavyConnect is launching a Training Module, which helps farm operations by lowering the risk of poor tracking and management of mandatory trainings in the field. This solution enables managers to identify issues and take corrective action in real-time to make sure their operations are always audit-ready. Find out why HeavyConnect is trusted by farms all over the country to manage recordkeeping for both labor and food safety compliance.

GeoVisual continues to deliver crop analytics requested by its contract customers, through collaborative work with customers and projects with national research agencies, including NASA and USDA, and the industry’s advocates, including Western Growers, the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Ag, and the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. Recent initiatives include GeoVisual’s spearheading a public-private partnership funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to help the specialty crop industry advance its use of irrigation and fertilizer scheduling tools, in collaboration with Cal State Monterey Bay, NASA Ames and the University of California’s Cooperative Extension.

Full Harvest: FarmLink, a nonprofit started by a group of Stanford students, who are helping connect growers with surplus produce to food banks to feed America’s most at-risk families, is using the Full Harvest marketplace to identify and purchase specific surplus commodities that their nonprofit partners are looking for. The marketplace is a very efficient way to connect with farmers. Previously, FarmLink was calling farmers/growers and asking if they had surplus. Now FarmLink and their food bank partners can go on to the Full Harvest Marketplace, and search by commodity and connect with growers immediately, make a purchase, and then have our platform handle all of the logistics for delivery. It’s now in one easy-to-use marketplace.

The Bee Corp: Already starting to think about 2021 pollination? So is The Bee Corp! The company started reaching out to growers, brokers and beekeepers to book Verifli hive grading for the upcoming season. Last month, it hired Fresno native Jeff Walker as its new sales representative. Spots are already starting to fill up, so get in touch soon to secure your preferred grading date. Plus, the company is offering free Verifli credits if you sign up before the end of July. The Bee Corp made a ton of improvements and new features in store for next year’s version of Verifli. There is one major change to be aware of: the company will be exclusively deploying Verifli as a service in 2021. Just like it did this season, it will be sending its team to grade your hives with the Verifli app next year. That means it won’t be shipping IR cameras and you won’t be tasked with waking up in the middle of the night to grade hives. The company take care of the hard work—all you need to do is sit back and wait for your results to come in. This also means that it will be scheduling hive grading on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sign up early to secure a priority date and receive your hive strength results well before bloom.

ApisProtect has joined the Microsoft for Startup program. This strategic partnership will allow ApisProtect to use Microsoft technologies to scale its business for the next two years. Dr. Edwards Murphy, CEO of ApisProtect, said, “Our bee monitoring technology will enable beekeepers to manage their apiaries more effectively and focus on cultivating larger and stronger colonies. We are delighted to be working with Microsoft as we scale our company globally over the next two years.”

Agtools has won the 2020 Flywheel Investment Conference competition and $125,000 investment award from Flywheel Angel Network. Founded in 2017 by Martha Montoya and her brothers Gustavo and Oscar Montoya, Agtools is a software as a service (SaaS) ag and food supply chain platform offering real-time data and intelligence to farmers and buyers using algorithms helping manage market volatility, increase profitability and reduce food waste. Agtools has locations in Wenatchee, WA and Salinas, CA with their technology teams based in Washington State.