March 1, 2023

WGCIT Updates: March/April 2023

By Ellie Amesse

The Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology was created to link Western Growers members with innovators in the agtech space. Below are news updates from the Center’s startups, as well as updates on activities at the center and its popular podcast!

Aanika Biosciences

Biotechnology start-up Aanika Biosciences has entered into a food insurance agreement with Satur Farms, a specialty crop producer with operations in New York and Arizona. Aanika will bundle its technology for tracing fresh produce with a novel parametric food recall and contamination insurance policy. Aanika is developing products to combat pathogen growth and reduce outbreaks, which could further support the ability to write risk coverage in crops that are historically plagued by food safety issues.


Agrology, a seed-stage climate technology start-up, was one of six partners awarded approximately $5 million in funding from the USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative. The partners will further develop the capacity for growers to quantify climate-smart practices. Agrology will focus on quantifying regenerative practices.

“Farmers, ranchers and growers need high-quality, ground-truth data to help them with the transition to climate-smart agricultural practices,” said Adam Koeppel, Co-Founder and CEO of Agrology.“This data will prove their success and help them capture value in carbon markets. We are honored to receive a USDA grant to work alongside academics and growers to uncover ways to make climate-smart farming financially accessible to growers of all sizes and all crops.” For more on Agrology, please see the story on page 28.


AgTools was invited to submit a White Paper to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) meeting in Paris, where 50 ministers of agriculture from throughout the world met. The theme of AgTools’ paper was the importance of data in supporting and improving supply chains. For the past 60 years, OECD has been an international forum that focuses on developing policies for improving economic systems worldwide. The AgTools OECD White Paper: “The Critical Role of Data in the Food Supply Chain,” can be viewed here:


At the World Ag Expo, FarmWise launched its next-generation weeding implement, Vulcan, which was named to the Top-10 New Products list of the World Ag Expo. Vulcan removes weeds inter-row and intra-row with sub-inch precision, eliminating the need for hand-weeding crews for over 20 vegetable crops including lettuce and broccoli. The result is a cost-efficient, precise, and reliable weed control solution for vegetable crops.

Last month, FarmWise welcomed a new CEO, Tjarko Leifer, a recognized industry leader and former SVP of Strategy at Climate Corporation. Leifer had been serving the company for the past few years as an independent board member. Former CEO Sebastien Boyer stepped into the role of Chairman. He will continue to support the team with external communications and as a strategic advisor.


Ganaz, a people management platform for agriculture, announced the launch of “Envíos con Ganaz” powered by Remitly. In its continued efforts to help create safer, fairer, and more profitable workplaces while providing the financial services needed to help workers forge a path out of poverty, Ganaz is integrating a remittance service into its Ganaz MasterCard® Payroll Card. This new partnership enables bankless agricultural workers to move to a fully digital remittance experience. Remittances are critical to many agricultural workers for expenses like food, clothing, medical needs, and paying off debts, and are also used to pay for higher education and acquire property.


IntelliCulture, a company providing farm equipment management software that drives sustainable farming practices through actionable insights, efficiency improvements, and risk mitigation, has joined the John Deere Startup Collaborator program. They are excited to be working alongside John Deere this coming year.

Kula Bio

Kula Bio, based in Natick, Massachusetts, is the leading biofertilizer solution, helping growers improve yield and minimize environmental impacts. Kula bio has rediscovered the air–soil connection and has developed a powerful natural nitrogen solution. This solution will help growers adapt to new regulations and shifting consumer demands for sustainable produce. Kula Bio is growers, scientists, and engineers all bound by shared values with a desire to offer sustainable, affordable solutions for nutrient management.

Nexus Robotics

Going commercial this summer with its weeding robots, Nexus is now set to unfold its next phase by adding new applications to its autonomous vehicle. After operating its fleet of five robots, Nexus has reached a weed removal rate of 85%+ while covering three to five acres a day depending on the weed density. Nexus will be doing demos through 2023 and we invite growers to reach out to us to discuss potential ROI for your farm.

Farm Forward with unique technology and join our journey towards having a totally autonomous scout on your farm.


PickTrace, the winner of the 2022 AgTech Breakthrough award for Labor Management Solutions, is the only all-in-one labor management suite for agriculture. It’s never been this easy to stay compliant, analyze labor costs, and run payroll. With PickTrace onboarding, users can rapidly hire/rehire employees, generate and digitally store their I-9 and W-4 documents, and bulk import employee data into their payroll system. Time and productivity are tracked in real time, enabling you and your team to feel confident in your payroll compliance. Easily pay your workforce with PickTrace Paycards and provide your employees faster access to their hard-earned money. PickTrace recently increased its presence in Salinas and Yuma, focusing on delivering an exceptional customer experience, optimized field processes, and operationalized data.

What’s New at the WGCIT?

In the first WGCIT Lunch & Learn event of the year, Mark Mason from Huntington Farms shared his thoughts about the future of agriculture, both in terms of workforce development and how to integrate new innovation into existing systems.

Mason, who manages Huntington Farms’ location in the Salinas Valley, spoke about the potential for the Next Gen Ag Workers program, coining the term “two-year tech,” and his hope to hire these students for his ranch.

The Next Gen Ag Workers program is a Western Growers effort to implement modules into the current two- and four-year college programs to educate students about technology and systems unique to a career in agriculture. The modules are set to be utilized in the upcoming Spring 2023 semester. Once a student completes five of the 10 modules available, they will be able to have access to internship opportunities with Western Growers members.

For the representatives from 18 startups that were in attendance, Mason talked about “farming by committee” and how the integration of new technology has to marry itself with the systems that already exist on a farm for implementation to happen.

For more information about WGCIT’s monthly Lunch & Learn events, visit

Catch up on new episodes of the WGCIT’s podcast, Voices of the Valley!

Voices of the Valley just passed a major milestone—we reached 10,000 listens in less than a year. Be sure to tune in and listen to the latest developments with the major innovators and thinkers in the area of agricultural technology. Voices of the Valley can be found on all major podcast distribution platforms, including Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.

In a February episode of Voices of the Valley, Stuart Woolf, President and CEO of Woolf Farming Company, shares his interest, knowledge and utilization of agtech, which started in 1982 with his first Apple computer computations.

Woolf is the second generation of growers who stays grounded in the present while looking to the future: “One thing my Dad did—which I thought in retrospect was really kind of genius—he looked at the crops that were predominantly being grown out there in the mid-‘70s and it was a lot of cotton, grain, melons, those kinds of things, and he thought ‘You know, I don’t want to be beholden to farm programs and support payments and all that.’ So he really started to focus on crops that were unique to California like almonds and pistachios where we had global competitive advantage. He narrowed it down to a handful of items that turn out to be highly mechanized, we had a global advantage, we enjoyed a better return per acre-foot on those crops.”

That inclination to see the big picture and how it relates to success over time means a focus on innovation. Of the topics that are on his radar—water, labor shortages and soil health, to name a few—Woolf says there is one area of innovation he and his team have an eye on: data processing. His take makes this episode a must listen for any grower, innovator or environmental health advocate.

In a January episode, Seana Day, Partner with Culterra Capital and Venture Partner with Better Food Ventures, joins Donohue and Wilson to share her perspective about the need for digital systems to better utilize farmers’ time, information and resources.

“When we think about the role of technology and optimizing our assets, our resources, it just doesn’t make sense to me why more companies aren’t thinking about integrating those technologies…it’s always surprising to me how much loss or waste operators are willing to assume as just a cost of doing business,” Day shares.

Day also speaks about the growing need for a workforce trained in the unique environment of an agricultural organization and how important it is for those working in specialized roles to integrate with one another and the software that’s available.

“I’m looking at all of this information and it’s siloed,” Day says. “It’s so disconnected. It’s so analogue. It’s all done on pen and paper, and it takes forever. Making any kind of remotely real-time decision—let’s be honest, there’s a lot of risk. You leave revenue on the table. Your costs are inflated. There’s more risk than there should be because we’re not able to access information…to make those swift decisions.”

As Venture Partner, Day also offers insight into the three things that stand out to her when she’s assessing startups and what sets the two-to-four that are chosen apart from the hundreds that apply.