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Pork Checkoff Embraces Startup Innovation for First Time with New MidWest THRIVE Accelerator Program

The National Pork Board (NPB or the Pork Checkoff) is partnering with Californian venture firm SVG Partners on its new MidWest THRIVE accelerator program. The Pork Checkoff is partnering alongside animal health group Elanco, Indiana’s agbiosciences promoter AgriNovus, and entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator Purdue Foundry. THRIVE’s existing partner on its Californian program Land O’Lakes is also part of the new program, which aims to focus on animal health startups and foster innovation in the MidWest.

Some of these partners will be investing in SVG Partners’ third fund.

This will be the first time NPB has dedicated resources to focus on new innovation, including the creation of a new job role internally, according to John Hartnett, partner at SVG Partners. NPB represents some 60,000 pork producers in the US.

“NPB made a strategic decision to embrace innovation and technology to improve their industry,” he told AgFunderNews. “For many years, NPB has been funding research in the area of animal health, and their relationship with THRIVE will open this library of research for potential commercialization.”

“Additionally, they recognize that new technology has the opportunity to solve challenges in their industry. Land O’Lakes and new partners like NPB and Elanco have driven our interest in this expansion into the animal health and livestock area,” Hartnett added.

Read more in AgFunder news.

SVG Partners Announces EY as Latest Sponsor to Join the THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform

September 19, San Francisco, CA— SVG Partners announced this morning global leader of assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services EY as the latest sponsor of its THRIVE Venture and Innovation Platform. Going forward together with SVG Partners, EY aims to support advanced technology infrastructure and new innovations in seeds, crop inputs, livestock, dairy and grain processing that will fuel the next generation of digital agriculture.

Five years after launching in Salinas, California, THRIVE Venture & Innovation continues to expand its platform, including growth of its university partnerships, the unveiling of a new THRIVE business park in Salinas, growth of its agtech investment fund, and new corporate partnerships.

“We are thrilled to join THRIVE’s global network of engaged startups, farmers and corporate leaders,” said Rob Dongoski, Agribusiness Leader, Ernst & Young LLP. “Digital agriculture is essential to the future of farming and this growing startup innovation ecosystem will help drive new advancements and exciting changes to our industry.”

On the new collaboration, SVG Partners and THRIVE founder & CEO John Hartnett said, “We are pleased to welcome EY to the THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform. EY is a globally recognized advisory and innovation firm and we look forward to working together to develop insights and technologies that will advance the digitalization of agriculture.”



The THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform works with leading corporations, startups, universities, and growers to solve the biggest challenges facing the food and agriculture industries. Yearly, THRIVE hosts highly selective programs for seed and growth stage AgTech and FoodTech startups, providing investment, top-tier mentorship, trials, and go to market support. In addition, THRIVE provides corporate open innovation and advisory services, working with leading corporations like Coca Cola, EY, Trimble, Wilbur-Ellis, Taylor Farms, Land O’Lakes, Wells Fargo and Verizon. THRIVE was launched in 2014 by Silicon Valley Global Partners (SVG Partners), a venture, innovation and advisory firm based in Silicon Valley, CA.



EY is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. The insights and quality services we deliver help build trust and confidence in the capital markets and in economies the world over. We develop outstanding leaders who team to deliver on our promises to all of our stakeholders. In so doing, we play a critical role in building a better working world for our people, for our clients and for our communities.

EY refers to the global organization, and may refer to one or more, of the member firms of Ernst & Young Global Limited, each of which is a separate legal entity. Ernst & Young Global Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, does not provide services to clients. For more information about our organization, please visit

From Classroom to Field: THRIVE-X and opportunities in agtech education

THRIVE-X university team winners from Demo Day 2018 in Salinas, California

AgTech investment is growing globally but will agtech make its way to the classroom?

The answer is universities are slowly but steadily catching onto this wave of opportunity, specifically in educating a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs in this space.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) called “Innovation and Technology in Agriculture and the Environment.” AgTech is increasingly woven into the curriculums at universities considered a powerhouse for agriculture education such as UC Davis and CalPoly.

The opportunity is the drive for the THRIVE-X challenge, newly launched as part of SVG Partners’ THRIVE AgTech Venture and Innovation platform.

The program, which kicked off late last year, pulls together university teams where university students, the next generation of agtech entrepreneurs, develop ideas and solutions to some of the biggest problems that farmers face today including severe labor shortages, environmental regulations, and changing customer preferences.

At the THRIVE Demo Day at the Forbes AgTech Summit this past June, university teams from Santa Clara University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo pitched their solutions to labor shortages as part of  the THRIVE-X challenge.

Judges awarded the winning team Ascensor of Santa Clara University first place, and a $10,000 cash prize for a modular hydroponic solution with better ergonomics for vertical farming. The second-place team, HiveSpy, was awarded a $5,000 prize for its solution using sensor technology to identify when and which hives are ready to harvest.

Last month, local colleges in the Salinas Valley Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and Hartnell College joined the THRIVE-X mix.

Walt Duflock, managing partner at SVG Partners, confirmed THRIVE-X is opening up the competition for 2018-19 to all universities and colleges in the U.S.

“We expect to see competitors from schools with and without an agriculture focus and most teams will include a mix of expertise, including engineering and business,” says Duflock.

He added, expanding the competitive pool nationwide will “create a wide range of potential solutions for farmers that are looking for innovations so they can grow more with less resources, whether the resources are labor, water, or land.”

The focus for THRIVE-X is to help student teams develop new solutions and work on commercializing them even after the competition is complete.  The contest is not only about research and development, but also about developing and iterating new product solutions drawing from a large mix of disciplines.  

“We hope that universities across the U.S. will choose to participate with teams made up of students that have an interest in agricultural problems and want to compete at solving some of the  most difficult agriculture challenges,” Duflock says.

Now in its second year, Duflock said the program will also extend from eight weeks to nine months “giving us more time to educate the students???  Should reword this as we are not educating the students! so hopefully we get a better product for the farmers to see.”  The goal is to take the products into the commercial phase.

In 2019, THRIVE-X will challenge students to create technologies that tackle some of agriculture’s biggest problems including a continued labor supply shortage and limited water supply. Student entrepreneurs will also find innovative alternatives to steer away from plastics use.

Municipalities and growers see opportunity

Companies such as Taylor Farms and Cisco and the city of Salinas strongly back the idea behind THRIVE-X. For the Salinas region, building agtech and entrepreneurship into the curriculum is a critical element of economic development.

The city is moving forward with its partnership with Hartnell College and the four surrounding cities that make up the Salinas Valley in developing a program to cultivate a knowledge-based workforce for agtech.

Salinas City Manager Ray Corpuz estimates within the next half year the program will ramp up the curriculum, may need to reword – we don’t directly affect the curriculum but the program may potentially drive changes to the curriculum & associated staffing staffing and bringing on board teachers and lecturers.

Corpuz anticipates the growth of agtech companies, which have offices and a footprint in Salinas, such as Trace Genomics will continue to hire whether it be biochemists or technicians. Corpuz said he sees the jobs centered on a “white collar workforce,” which requires new skills.

He continued:

“The biggest single issue that agtech faces is not so much the new technology, but is taking the technology and making those practical business transactions and having the skilled workforce to implement what might be say a simple robotic machine. You might not need a four-year degree or engineering degree but you might have to service the robot.”

Brad Barbeau, a business professor at Cal State Monterey Bay, said the university is expanding its programming and courses when it comes to agriculture and technology.  The opportunity, Barbeau says, lies in the region itself where agriculture in the Salinas Valley alone is a $9 billion industry.

“I would call it pervasive, all of our agriculture courses deal with agtech because it is the future of agriculture,” Barbeau said.

CSUMB has an agribusiness program and through the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development (IIED) supports programs that are agtech focused; last February it co-organized the first Women in Ag and Tech Entrepreneurship Forum. The well-attended event included a panel featuring women in agtech such as Pam Marrone the CEO and founder of Marrone Bio Innovations, Le Thuy Vuong the CEO and founder of Redmelon, and Deema Tamimi the CEO and founder of Giving Garden a company that creates software that connects communities with food.

In the pipeline is also a new incubator program that will be run through the IIED that focuses on the development of the agtech ecosystem. The program centers around helping entrepreneurs who are at very early stages, and will involve mentoring, workshops, education programs and an assessment process.

“The idea is to get them to a point where they go into an accelerator,” said Barbeau. The goal is to launch the incubator program by spring 2019.

The collaboration between growers, corporations, universities, local government and programs such as the THRIVE-X Challenge, appear to be the perfect formula to continue to develop a pipeline of talent.

Partner Feature: Financing Sustainable Shifts in the Ag Economy

We Sat Down With Matt Servatius, Head Of Cleantech At Wells Fargo And Kenneth Scott Zuckerberg, Sector Manager Of Agrifoodtechnology And Packaged Food At Wells Fargo To Discuss The Challenges Agriculture Faces And Why All Classes Of Investors Are An Important Part Of The Conversation And Solution.

Last year, Wells Fargo’s awarded THRIVE a $300,000 grant to support our efforts to help promising technologies and startupsin the agriculture sector evolve from concept to market. A partner of THRIVE since early 2016, the investment followed the bank’s first $100,000 philanthropic contribution to the global startupplatform. Both awards are part of the bank’s larger announcement made earlier this year to commit $200 billion in sustainable financing for projects focused on sustainable agriculture, waste reduction, and water and broad environmental conservation. Outside of the government, Wells Fargo has been the most active agriculture lender for over 19 years.

Can you talk about the role that Wells Fargo plays in catalysing capital as the sector undergoes digital transformation?

MS: At Wells Fargo, our thesis is that the food system is transforming, and we are seeing that every part of the value chain is being disrupted. As a firm, we understand the solution for our clients, the challenges and disruptions, and can identify the real risks that exist. The bank intersects all different parts of the farm and food chain- many of these farmers are already our customers, so when they are looking for financing to mechanize new technology, we are available at this point.

We also recognize the critical need for different investor classes to participate in financing innovation. Unless it’s a software play, venture capital may not be the right class of investment purely from the standpoint that companies should be unburdened with incessant funding. In order to reach the tremendous scale that is required of these companies as they move through incubation to large corporate companies, there is a diversity of capital that should play a role across the life cycle of these companies. Many companies shouldn’t be giving away equity and should instead be proving out their technologies with institutional grant dollars. So, Wells plays a central role because we cover these different class of investors like family offices, sovereign wealth funds, equity, etc., in order to better enable and support these companies.

KZ: The big picture is that food and ag is the last trillion-dollar industry to digitize and embrace innovation. When you look at agriculture, there are major risks involved including food scarcity and insecurity, trade risk, climate volatility, and the more risks there are, the more exciting it is for technology to play a role. In this process, we have to ask whether we are prepared, willing and able to bring capital to bear in the process of understanding if these new technologies will work or fail. As a bank, we are in the position to finance all sorts of innovation that need longer investment horizons and flexibility.

What are the key pain points facing the industry?

KZ: Our approach is to find out first where the pain point is and to be the conduit and financing mechanism for the technologies that are addressing them. Of critical importance in the industry is that there is no common operating system, which is a huge issue. On top of this, there is a lack of consistent rural broadband.

You have to take the complexity and burden off of the farmer as far as adoption goes. Technologists need to think about their models in this sense let farmers focus on their core businesses and don’t make them purchase it. Having them lease it is much more viable.

Labor is undoubtedly one of agriculture’s biggest challenges. If you run a greater demand than your production facility, even assuming no changes to US immigration policy or work permits for foreign workers, then adoption of robotics, automation and other advanced technologies will be key. So how do we do this? In a recent Wells Fargo-sponsored roundtable webinar, I had the pleasure of hosting three industry professionals with expertise in precision farming, robotics and satellite imagery to provide their insight. The group include Sebastien Boyer of FarmWise, Carl Vauseof Soft Robotics and Ron Hadarof Vibe Imaging Analytics.

Farmers have long been accustomed to spending money on seed technologies (genetics) and new formulations of crop protection chemicals as a means to generate additional yield. With diminishing returns from bioengineered seeds and the reduced efficacy of agrochemicals with increasing weed resistance, there is an industrial logic to committing a portion of ‘innovation investment capital’ to robotics and automation as the new products come to market.

As the value chain further consolidates and becomes more vertically integrated, there ought to be more top-down support for modernizing and automating processes through technology as a means to monitor and optimize processes, improve operational efficiency and more effectively manage and monitor risk.

Regarding food waste, I do not subscribe to the idea that we need to produce more, but that we need to be more efficient about our supply.

About Wells Fargo Clean Technology

The Wells Fargo Clean Tech team is comprised of banking professionals with deep cleantechindustry across a multitude of financial firms. The group oversees several cleantech-focused initiatives, including the Innovation Incubator, a $10 million environmental grant program for clean technology startupsand has put $4 billion in solar and wind project investments to work, $9 billion to support LEED-certified and other green buildings, as well as other loans and investments through its Clean Technology and Innovation Philanthropy Program.

THRIVE Partnerships: Integrated Blockchain Technology Between Turatti and Startup EZ-Lab

The Venetian group, leading manufacturer of food processing equipment and the Paduan startup, presented in the United States the first machinery using blockchain technology to certify the different processing steps to which each batch of products is subject.

(Venice, July 2018). A large group, world leader in the production of machinery for the agri-food sector, and a dynamic and award-winning startup: an alliance distinguished by Industry 4.0 technologies, grown between Veneto and Silicon Valley. Taking advantage of the combination of the two most important and prestigious events in the sector,the United Fresh Showin Chicago andtheForbes AgTech Summit in Salinas (the “Davos” of the agro-industry), the Turatti Groupfrom Cavarzere (Venice) and the Paduan startup Ez Lab presented the world’s first example of food processing machinery in compliance with the blockchain technology.

An absolute novelty that has stirred up much interest: the single machines and the process lines of Turatti are now able to record in real time, on a blockchain platform, different steps to which the product is subject.

 The data are then automatically encoded on an unmodifiable register and can be checked at any time: therefore a company that adopts Turatti’s machinery can offer a new guarantee in terms of food safety, because the blockchain technology allows to certify all the processing steps to which each individual lot has been submitted. A certification that can be shown as a guarantee and proof in case of complaints relating to product safety.

The decision to launch the product starting from the US market is not a coincidence. Both Turatti Group and Ez Lab are also “based” in the States: the Cavarzere Group, with its state-of-the-art Turatti North America plant, is locatedin Salinas where last year the Paduan startup took part in an acceleration program of five months promoted by Thrive, the world’s largest accelerator in agri-food. From this meeting a collaboration featured by the logic of open innovation was born.

“Food safety topics – explains Massimo Morbiato, founder Ez Lab–  are becoming central, consumers are rightly more and more concerned with this aspect, they ask for guarantees, they weigh their purchase choices. The application of blockchain technology to the Turatti process solutions can also be effectively integrated with AgriOpendata, our platform for traceability of the supply chain that allows consumers to know all the steps from the field to the supermarket shelf.

Innovation is in our group’s DNA – says Alessandro TurattiPresident and CEO of Turatti North America– from the development of the initial idea to the machine or to the final software. With one foot in the fields of Salinas (“the US salad bowl”) and the other one well planted in Silicon Valley, (the world’s innovation capital), we have revolutionized food processing once again. ”


EZ Lab is an innovative startup founded in Padua in 2014 inside the university incubator Galileo Visionary District and it is specialized in the development of solutions based on the application of blockchain technology to the agri-food sector. In 2016, with the Agriopendata platform for traceability of agri-food products, it won the Lamarck Smau Milano 2016 award, in 2017 it was the only Italian startup selected by the Thrive incubator for an acceleration program in Salinas. The founder of EZ Lab is Massimo Morbiato, an IT entrepreneur with twenty years of experience in the sector, while Mauro Cordioli is entrusted with the R&D area. 

Turatti North America represents the Turatti Group in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The group’s divisions offer a full range of skills that allow food business operators to add quality, safety and value to their products. Turatti supplies standard machines and custom-made systems, designed and built with an eye on food safety and strong focus on performance and automation. Thanks to their vast experience, the Turatti Group is an innovative leader in the development of automated control systems for food processing, by means of internal solutions and strategic partnerships. Fully automated solutions and first-class industrial robots can be included in processing lines to maximize productivity. The Salinas (CA) office manages sales, services and spare parts for the group in North America.

Building an Innovation Hub: The Salinas AgTech Story

How A Historic Agriculture Region Transformed Its Trajectory Through Technology

by Amy Wu

The road to the seat of California’s burgeoning “AgTech” sector starts on the drive down Highway 101 from Silicon Valley to Salinas, where modern office landscape morphs into a panorama of lettuce heads, strawberries and broccoli.

The Salinas Valley, which includes Salinas and four neighboring municipalities, is known for its agriculture industry, a $9 billion industry where 80% of the country’s leafy greens are grown. More recently though, the Salinas Valley has become a base for AgTech (agriculture and food focused technology), a fast-growing sector that attracted $1.5 billion across 160 deals in investment last year alone.

The Salinas AgTechEcosystem emerged from a major economic blow in 2012 when the city lost Capital One as major employer which resulted in the loss of 900 jobs.

The city responded quickly, with then Mayor Dennis Donahue reaching out to John Hartnett of SVG Partners for his expertise to help drive economic development and recovery for the region. Donohue was aware of the work that Hartnett had done to build innovation in Ireland; in 2009 then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tapped Hartnett to be a part of a subcommittee to build an economic development ecosystem in Belfast and linking it to the U.S.

“He has a clear record of understanding innovation ecosystems and was off the shelf in terms of experience and background,” Donohue said.

Soon after, Hartnett visited Salinas and met with city leaders and the heads of some of the largest agriculture companies including Bruce Taylor of Taylor Farms, LorriKosterthen CEO and Chair of Mann Packing, and Victor Smith from JV Smith. He also met with key leaders at local academic institutions including Cal State Monterey Bay andHartnellCollege.

The AgTech strategy made sense for this region, Hartnett said. The Salinas Valley was already the base for the country’s leading agriculture companies including Taylor Farms, Driscoll’s, Tanimura & Antle, Earthbound Farm, JV Smith and Dole, companies with extensive histories, many still family owned. The region is famous for specialty crops including strawberries and raspberries.

“It was almost a hidden secret,” Hartnett said of Salinas. “You had phenomenal strength with agriculture and proximity to Silicon Valley.”

Early days

In 2013 the city hired SVG Partners to develop the city’s AgTech sector and create a roadmap for AgTech growth. This set forth a collaboration and partnership that lay the foundation for the sector, and one that SVG worked to create by connecting government and big businesses.

The blueprint included 4 pillars; Innovation, Acceleration, Investment and Corporate Engagement.

Hartnett and his team created the Steinbeck Innovation Foundation, now renamed THRIVE Foundation which initiated education programs such as Kauffman FastTrac, one of the original training programs and workshops for entrepreneurs; the Young Innovators Program, a problem solving challenge for high schoolers, CoderDojo, a coding for kids program developed in Ireland, now run by Hartnell College.

In 2014 The THRIVE Accelerator was launched to attract companies from all over the world to come to Salinas and leverage the world class agriculture and technology corporate network as well as supportive growers to trial new technologies. This highly competitive program selects the best AgTechstartups from a vast pool of applicants from all over the world. This year marks the program’s fourth cohort with nine startups chosen from 172 applicants across 37 countries.

Members of the accelerator connect with industry players including growers, and have access to the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology an incubator launched in 2015 that houses AgTechstartups including THRIVE Accelerator winners.

Bruce Taylor, CEO and Chairman of Taylor Farms, then the chairman of The Western Growers Association, one of the largest trade associations in the industry, was a supporter from the start. In 2015 Taylor launched the company’s new headquarters on Main Street, which has steadily revitalized the city’s downtown with trendy restaurants and shops.

Taylor was instrumental in engaging the Western Growers in the THRIVE initiative and ultimately the Western Growers Association decided that it would like to operate the incubator space in Salinas, now called the WG Center for Innovation & Technology.

Innovation and funding are almost synonymous with each other, and an investment fund was a fundamental part of the innovation strategy from the beginning. SVG Partners launched the THRIVE Fund whose investors include some of THRIVE’s corporate partners and other strategic LPs from the world of agriculture. These companies understand the problems in ag and that they are not going to be solved overnight. Patient capital is essential for AgTech, which has longer development cycles than typical tech startups since they are often limited by growing cycles for validation.

Since 2016, SVG Partners has invested $100k in each accelerator company.

Reinvention involves branding, marketing and media outreach, and from the very start the city and SVG Partners invested significantly in what some say is the rebranding of Salinas. The challenge was to transform the less than favorable outside perception of the city and its sole moniker of “salad bowl of the world” into a mecca where agriculture and technology converge.

The city took a proactive approach and as early as 2012 tapped the Development Counsellors International (DCI), a New York City based marketing firm, to promote Salinas and AgTechto national press. Five years since pitching the AgTech story to press, the story has headlined the front pages of international media including The Financial Times and subsequent stories in The Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. The Salinas AgTechstory has generated well over 100 news stories.

The genesis of what is today the annual Forbes AgTech Summit started back in 2014 when Hartnett posed the idea of holding a summit to bring together the worlds of agriculture and technology as nothing of the kind existed at the time. In the summer of 2014 the first AgTechsummit was held in nearby Monterey.

Soon after Hartnett, city manager Ray Corpuz Jr., and other city leaders traveled to New York City to propose the idea of a summit to Forbes, launching a relationship that continues to this day.

The Forbes AgTechSummit has grown every year in scale and number of participants, namely CEOs and leaders at Fortune 500 companies along with investors and entrepreneurs.  Since 2015 it has been held downtown in a marquee tent bookended between the Taylor Building and the National Steinbeck Center. This year’s Summit drew in an estimated 750 executives, investors and entrepreneurs in the AgTechspace. The Summit also spotlights the THRIVE Accelerator cohort who showcase their technologies on demo day. City leadership, including current Mayor Joe Gunter, continue to support the Summit and the growth of the sector.

The growth of THRIVE

Since launching its first cohort in 2014, THRIVE’s programs have grown tremendously. The programs, events, investments and services have reached more than 5,000 growers and 1,200 startups representing over 60 countries.

In 2016 THRIVE launched its corporate open innovation program to provide technology scouting, trend reporting, innovation advice, investment opportunities and brand exposure to its Corporate Partners.

In 2017 THRIVE convened a Growers Roundtable where growers shared the challenges they are currently experiencing in the field and challenges relating to working with startups. Additionally, technologists shared challenges in robotics and automation and explained how new business models for innovation may be the way forward in driving innovation.

THRIVE’s most recent program is THRIVE-X, a university challenge that strives to tap fresh talent and attract college teams to solve the biggest problems in agriculture. Students are tasked with developing a solution to reduce the number of unharvested acres of specialty crops resulting from a lack of available labor.

Participating universities in this year’s launch include Santa Clara University in San Jose and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo).  The program will expand to several other universities in the coming year.

Going forward 

This is a new season in Salinas. Main Street is again abuzz with what is now the fourth annual Forbes AgTechSummit.

Inside the Center for Innovation and Technology, Donohue – himself a seasoned veteran in the ag industry – makes a point that developing the agtechsector is a necessity for economic vitality.

“The future economy and future high skilled jobs are going to include a lot more tech,” Donohue said. “I think human capital will be a value proposition.”

The pipeline of talent that Salinas aims to cultivate continues to move forward. Salinas launched a new workforce program for agtechjob training in partnership with Hartnell College in Salinas and neighboring cities.

City leaders assert that they hope that agtech will be the city’s leading sector and anticipate that the potential is being played out through initiatives and most certainly THRIVE.

“Developing and supporting the development of the AgTechEcosystem in Salinas is our number one economic strategy. We are committed for the long term.  We believe the benefits will be more investments and jobs for Salinas,” Corpuz said.

In looking ahead, Hartnett considered creating a fund for growth stage companies and attracting large technology companies as investors, and taking deeper dives into areas like data and artificial intelligence.

“We need a few unicorns, and I am betting on Trace Genomics and a few of these to be the unicorns in agtech,” said Hartnett, smiling.

2018 THRIVE Startup Winner Announced at Forbes AgTech Summit

Media contact: Emily Breslin,


Salinas, Calif., June 28, 2018—SVG Partners announced Philadelphia based startup Augean Robotics as the winner of the 2018 THRIVE AgTech Innovation Award early this morning during the fourth annual Forbes AgTech Summit. In addition to Augean Robotics, precision agriculture company Aker and microbiome company Intrinsyx Bio received honourable mentions.


SVG Partners Founder and CEO John Hartnett and THRIVE Platform Director Mareese Keane presented the award on the Forbes main stage as day two of the summit kicked off. “Each year we are continually impressed not only by the innovative technologies of these companies, but also the caliber and level of leadership of each team,” Hartnett said. “The THRIVE Innovation Award is awarded to companies exemplifying the best in technology and leadership, and this year’s Augean Robotics team and their Burro robot continually demonstrated these qualities during the accelerator program and onstage during demo day yesterday.”


The award ceremony was the culmination of THRIVE’s 10-week accelerator program, which began in April and ended yesterday morning with a demo presentation featuring nine companies from this year’s cohort. Demo day, the hallmark event of the THRIVE accelerator program, provides startups the opportunity to showcase their solutions before a curated audience of investors, corporate partners, and local and national media. The pitches of Augean Robotics, Aker, and Intrinsyx Bio, along with the other six startups, Boost Biomes, Agronow, Re-Nuble, Napigen, Persistence Data Mining and Orbis MES, from this year’s cohort were judged by THRIVE’s corporate partners Trimble, Taylor Farms, Wilbur-Ellis, Coca Cola, Land O’Lakes, Western Growers Association, Driscoll’s Berries, Wells Fargo, JV Smith, Yamaha, Sun World Innovations, Turatti, City of Salinas, and Produce Marketing Association.


Augean Robotics

AGR develops labor-saving robots for farmers like Burro, its robotic cart that follows pickers like a dog, and can run back down a row to be emptied at a collection point. With Burro, hand-pickers are able to pick continuously, allowing them to avoid wasting upwards of 30% of their time running picked produce from pick point to collection point. The two-wheel Burro can carry 300 pounds to 450 pounds and is powered by sealed lead acid batteries, and can travel up to 15 miles on a charge.


Augean Robotics targets hand-picked / hand-shuttled crops including table grapes, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Growers of these specialty crops face rising labor costs, and often have hand-harvesting crews who spend 20-30% of each day running what they have picked back and forth.  In these settings, our machine provides a 1 to 2-year payback, and a robotic platform that can later do far more.



THRIVE ‘Highly Commended’ Recipients



Aker is the first ever company to create patented technology that effectively automates ‘ground truthing’ or the process of collecting pest, and crop damage inside the canopy of crops during the growing season. Aker provides geo-referenced real observed data and crop diagnostic tools, not inferred or approximated by current crop models.


Intrinsyx Bio

In the face of decreasing water and soil conditions, Intrinsyx’s formulation increases crop yield while it also increases nutrient use efficiency. These inoculants successfully colonize the roots and shoots of any crop type and offer a broad range of plant benefits which drastically increase yield and quality, most notably through nutrient use efficiency, abiotic stress tolerance (drought and salinity), and antifungal properties. Intrinsyx Bio is finalizing an exclusive license of its shelf stable microbial inoculant technology, which can be applied as seed coats, in granular form, and as liquid.


THRIVE V Applications Open

During its Demo Day yesterday, THRIVE opened applications for its fifth accelerator program. Unlike previous years, the THRIVE V accelerator program will take place over five months instead of 10 weeks.



About the SVG Partners-THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform

The THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform works with leading corporations, startups, universities, and growers to solve the biggest challenges facing the food and agriculture industries. THRIVE hosts a highly selective program for seed and growth stage AgTech and FoodTech startups, providing investment, top-tier mentorship, trials, and go to market support and in addition provides advisory and corporate open innovation services to the largest agriculture and technology companies. THRIVE was launched in 2014 by Silicon Valley Global Partners (SVG Partners), a venture, innovation and advisory firm based in Silicon Valley, CA.

SVG Partners unveils plans for the THRIVE Business Park in Salinas and expanded THRIVE-X University Challenge and Accelerator Program

Media contact: Emily Breslin, Business Park Inquiries: Ralph N. Borelli, Chairman,


June 27, Salinas, CA—SVG Partners announced this morning during its annual Demo Day held at the Forbes AgTech Summit the details of its expanded THRIVE 2018-2019 program and the unveiling of the new THRIVE Business Park adjacent to Salinas’ airport. Five years after launching in Salinas, Calif., THRIVE continues to expand its platform, including the launch and growth of the THRIVE-X University challenge earlier this year, new investments, as well as the growth of its corporate open innovation program with partners Wilbur-Ellis, Trimble, Taylor Farms, Wells Fargo, Land O’Lakes, Verizon and Coca-Cola.


Catalyzing Growth in the Salinas Region

Faced with a scarcity of vacant R&D and warehouse/distribution space in the area, SVG announced today its partnership with the City of Salinas, Borelli Investment Company, SWENSON developers and general contractors, to develop the Thrive Business Park — a 206,000 sq. ft. flex R&D and warehouse/distribution center close to the city’s Municipal Airport.


Through its THRIVE accelerator, university, and corporate innovation programs, SVG Partners has established deep relationships within the agricultural business community as well as with the City of Salinas and is committed to promoting Thrive Business Park as an ideal solution for AgTech startups and other businesses looking for this hard-to-find space in the Salinas Valley. Looking forward, the project will be a welcome catalyst to bring additional economic development opportunities and an estimated 1,000 jobs — 100 during construction alone — to the City of Salinas.


Since the THRIVE accelerator’s inception, SVG Partners has invested in 20 companies, which have cumulatively raised $100 million in seed and Series A funding with a total valuation of half a billion dollars. Many of these companies, like Trace Genomics, MagGrow, and Arable now reside in Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology in downtown Salinas. John Hartnett, Founder & CEO of THRIVE said “the investment in many of our THRIVE companies has already catalyzed economic development in the Salinas region as they locate here [in Salinas] and continue to expand and employ in the region.”



University Partnerships: THRIVE-X Challenge

Also during Demo Day, THRIVE welcomed two university teams from Santa Clara University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo pitch as part of its THRIVE-X challenge. After deliberations from the judges in the audience, team Ascensor was awarded the first place $10,000 cash prize for its modular hydroponic solution with better ergonomics for vertical farming. The second-place team, HiveSpy, was awarded a $5,000 prize for its solution using sensor technology to identify when and which hives are ready to harvest.The THRIVE-X competition was launched in April, inviting teams formed at the two universities to develop solutions addressing labor challenges and attracting sponsors including Cisco, the City of Salinas, and Taylor Farms. Next year, THRIVE will expand the THRIVE-X Challenge to include additional universities.



On the heels of a hugely successful fourth accelerator program, opened applications for its fifth accelerator program online today. Unlike previous years, the THRIVE V accelerator program will take place over five months instead of 10 weeks.


Mareese Keane, THRIVE platform director said, “at the core of our accelerator is the connections we make between our startups and our partners and farmers and extending the program [over five months] gives our startups more time to develop their value propositions and prove their technologies during field trials with potential future customers.” THRIVE also announced open registration for its annual Innovation Forum which will be held next year at Santa Clara University on March 27.


As in previous years, THRIVE announced Augean Robotics as the winner of its THRIVE Innovation Award on the mainstage of the Forbes AgTech Summit.



For more information about THRIVE AgTech go to



The THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform works with leading corporations, startups, universities, and growers to solve the biggest challenges facing the food and agriculture industries. Yearly, THRIVE hosts highly selective programs for seed and growth stage AgTech and FoodTech startups, providing investment, top-tier mentorship, trials, and go to market support. In addition, THRIVE provides corporate open innovation and advisory services, working with leading corporations like Coca Cola, Ernst & Young, Trimble, Wilbur-Ellis, Taylor Farms, Land O’Lakes, Wells Fargo and Verizon. THRIVE was launched in 2014 by Silicon Valley Global Partners (SVG Partners), a venture, innovation and advisory firm based in Silicon Valley, CA.




June 21– San Francisco, Calif.—SVG Partners, a Silicon Valley innovation and advisory firm focusing in AgTech announced that startups from its 2018 THRIVE accelerator cohort will showcase their innovations on June 27 at THRIVE Demo Day before 200 an invite-only audience of investors, Fortune 500 food and agriculture brands, and media as part of the fourth annual Forbes AgTech Summit.

Within this year’s accelerator cohort, biotechnology and farm data & management technologies dominate. The largest technology category, biotech, demonstrates the market demand for biological rather than synthetic inputs, while the cohort’s second largest category, farm management software, reflects the growing need to help farmers to better steward resources in the midst of growing environmental constraints. Also represented in the startup class are robotics/automation solutions and technologies tackling on-field food wastage.

John Hartnett, CEO and Founder of THRIVE said, “growers continue to face tremendous pressure to produce foods for a population estimated at 9 billion by 2050. With continued labor shortages and water supply shortage, innovations that offer solutions towards sustainability and improving yield are especially sought after.”

Hartnett continued: “It is absolutely essential for us to arrive at new solutions, especially as we face the twin problems of a farming population that is ageing and in decline.”

Biotechnology startups in the THRIVE IV cohort include Boost Biomes. The San Francisco-based company uses sequencing, selective enrichment and advanced informatics to identify microbial products with important commercial roles.

Intrinsyx, based in nearby Los Altos, created a specialized microbe based off over 20 years of peer-reviewed plant microbiome research from a leading academic lab at University of Washington, as well as research from NASA.

Some of THRIVE’s startups have already seen investors commit to their companies; Boost Biomes, for example, received investment from Wilbur-Ellis one of the country’s largest marketers and distributors of crop protection, seed and nutritional products, and a leader in precision agriculture.

“Agriculture is the nexus of so many critical challenges like nutrition, soil stability, food waste, so where you can find solutions, you have exponential impact,” said Tinia Pina, CEO of Re-Nuble, a 2018 THRIVE accelerator finalist and New York City-based company manufacturing chemical-free fertilizers.

The THRIVE Accelerator was launched in 2014 to attract companies from all over the world to come to Salinas and leverage the world class agriculture and technology corporate network as well as support growers to trial new technologies. The highly competitive program selects 10 of the best Food and AgTech companies from a vast pool of applicants from all over the world. This year marks the program’s fourth cohort of the program with nine startups chosen from 172 applicants across 37 countries.


THRIVE Demo Day keynote speaker is Bruce Taylor, CEO and Chairman of Taylor Farms, will discuss the 40 plus innovation projects the company is heading up, many of them with THRIVE startups, in order to address labor issues and consumer preference. Keeping in line with attracting younger demographics, demo day will also feature university students from Santa Clara University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who will pitch their solutions for the labor crisis as part of the THRIVE-X university challenge launched this year.


For more details about THRIVE Demo Day go to
For more information about the THRIVE Accelerator IV cohort go to:



The THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform works with leading corporations, startups, universities, and growers to solve the biggest challenges facing the food and agriculture industries. Yearly, THRIVE hosts highly selective programs for seed and growth stage AgTech and FoodTech startups, providing investment, top-tier mentorship, trials, and go to market support. In addition, THRIVE provides corporate open innovation and advisory services, working with leading corporations like Coca Cola, Ernst & Young, Trimble, Wilbur-Ellis, Taylor Farms, Land O’Lakes, Wells Fargo and Verizon. THRIVE was launched in 2014 by Silicon Valley Global Partners (SVG Partners), a venture, innovation and advisory firm based in Silicon Valley, CA.

Accelerating AgTech: In conversation with Innovation Leaders at DuPont Pioneer

Recently, Dupont Pioneer Unveiled Its Bay Area Innovation Center Tying Together Its Startup, Field R&D And Integrated Operations Across California. So The Thrive Team Spoke With Two Innovation Leaders At Dupont Pioneer, Barbara Mazur, Vice President Of Technology Acquisition Strategy And Gusui Wu, Technology And Innovation Lead, Bay Area Innovation Center- To Discuss The Company’S AgTech Innovation Strategy.

THRIVE: Given population projections and resource constraints, biotechnology has played a big part in agriculture R&D. Can you provide some examples of this at DuPont Pioneer?

BM: One of the major challenges facing agriculture is protecting plants from insects and pests, and we have seen that today’s GMO Bt traits do not lend themselves to durable resistance, so there is a continued need for new modes of insect control. Recently, we invested in Provivi (a THRIVE Top 50 company), which is using pheromone application not only to the technology’s historic target specialty crops, but also to row crops. We are also collaborating with the Israeli company Evogene to test microbial seed applied technologies through accelerated microbiome analysis, formulation and fermentation to improve corn productivity globally.

We also need to focus on generating public acceptance of gene editing (like CRISPR- Cas) as different from genetically modified engineering. This will require education and marketing that stresses that target plants don’t have genes of foreign origin and we are looking to do this by helping both support and create companies that develop a host of consumer-friendly, transparent crops. Ultimately, growing consumer awareness for this technology will be beneficial from an environmental perspective. The analogy I use is that today’s grapes are sprayed many times throughout their lifetime to combat pest and disease, resulting in huge amounts of pesticides released into the soil and ground water, whereas gene editing helps us to bypass pesticide application spray altogether. In this example and many others, we have to understand the fundamental trade-offs of new technology.

THRIVE: Tell us about DuPont Pioneer’s approach to external innovation. What kinds of external technologies does the company look for and are these technologies tested and integrated?

BM: At its core, what DuPont Pioneer brings to the market is fuelled by an openness to innovation, strong research and development and collaboration with partners and farmers around the world. To date, we have a very successful digital agriculture business which provides farmers with as much information as possible in a given place and time. Currently we are looking into satellite and drone imagery to build out our offering for growers.

A big part of what we do is review what exists in the market and what technologies are emerging which would enhance our core businesses- including trait discovery, plant breeding, enabling technologies, biologicals and digital solutions. From a practical point of view, DuPont Pioneer engages in an annual white paper process which looks at potential investments, alliance partners, technologies, and competitors which are strategic to us. Beyond that, we work together with our collaborators, including our startup partners, on designing joint proof of principles and generating enough solid data, through field trials and germ plasms, to prove that solutions perform to standards.

GS: DuPont Pioneer has invested a lot of time into understanding its own critical gaps and the areas of research and technology development today which might fill those gaps. This starts with reviews of the company’s functional groups and continues with further work by an external technology advisory board comprised of senior leaders in research, legal and business, all of whom review what external opportunities might make the most sense for the company.

DuPont is a market shaper of the agriculture industry, and this requires that we are at the front of AgTech development and investment. I recently relocated to California to lead DuPont Pioneer’s Bay Area Innovation Center, a strategic move to be closely connected with seed companies, growth companies and future acquisitions. I’d imagine that in the long run, the company’s portfolio would reflect technologies impacting core existing businesses, potential industry disruption, and those technologies that fit within the vision of the company’s overall strategy to transform from a product-oriented business to a solution-oriented business.

THRIVE: DuPont Pioneer recently joined the THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform, how do you envision this partnership developing?

GS: What we saw was that THRIVE had a portfolio of different companies that is not focused on row crop technology companies, which makes it different from its peers. THRIVE as a platform enables us to participate in the innovation ecosystem in order to make investments beyond CVC and discover other models that will help us advance technology. Ultimately, this will enable us to broaden portfolio priorities beyond core business alignments to those technologies that are at the cutting edge.