Why We Invested: Olombria

by Jonathan Hua, THRIVE Accelerator Manager
This post originally appeared on Medium.com.

 

I love to eat. I consume blueberries, strawberries, and almonds like moviegoers consume popcorn: mindlessly and in giant handfuls. When I started investing in the agrifood tech sector through SVG Ventures-THRIVE, my primary goal was to invest in an industry that is both supporting the sustainability of our natural ecosystem and helping to improve our food production capabilities to help feed a burgeoning population. This is why I was so excited when I met the co-founding trio behind Olombria — Tashia, Louis and Greg.

The Challenge

Food production can be impacted by several factors, including climate change, and the availability of key resources like water, energy, labor and arable land. However, one key catalyst to food production that is often overlooked is pollination. Without the assistance of pollinators, most plants cannot produce fruits and seeds. According to the FAO, we know that, of all crops across the globe producing fruits or seeds for human consumption, roughly 75% depend, at least in part, on pollinators such as honey bees. In addition, pollinators affect 35% of global arable land, supporting the production of nearly 90 of the world’s leading food crops. But wild pollinators are under threat —according to the USDA, bee populations have been steadily declining for years now due to Varroa mite infestations, habitat loss, pesticides, weather and disease. In the USA, there has been an 18% reduction in honeybee hives since 1990. Hive prices have skyrocketed, with growers spending $400 million to pollinate almond trees each year in California alone, and an estimated nearly $3 billion spent across all crops in the USA each year. If this alarming trend continues, we are facing a loss or severe yield decrease of several critical fruits and crops we currently take for granted. Can you imagine a world where we have limited access to coffee, cocoa, or strawberries? The horde of dessert aficionados and coffee addicts would revolt! So the key here is either to help re-boost the honey bee population or to find an alternative pollination source.

The Solution

And this is where Olombria comes in. Olombria uses hoverflies (and is currently experimenting with other fly variations) as supplementary pollinators to bees in agrarian settings. Flies already do about 1/3 of the world’s pollination, but they are still underutilized and the Olombria technology substantially increases their effectiveness. Their solution involves a mesh network of machine learning nodes with insect recognition and chemical signal release capabilities that are connected to sprayer devices that release natural volatiles and carefully curated chemicals into a field to attract and manage the behavior of flies to aid in the pollination process. They are also testing a computer vision device that can provide farmers and growers with actionable insights on insect assemblage, pollinator availability/areas of deficit, pollinator effectiveness, pollinator health, as well as environmental data (to track conditions affecting the chemical dispersion process). The solution is comprehensive, quite innovative in its approach and tackles a significant problem in the food production process.

Why Is This Important?

Believe it or not, insect pollination contributes an estimated $175 billion globally through increased productivity in agriculture each year. Olombria is tackling a large primary market that has high impact potential through a diversity of crop types across fruits, berries and nuts. Looking at the economics, increasing crop yield through fly pollinator efficiency by a conservative estimate of only 2% is worth upwards of $100 million per year in value to almond farmers, with the potential to increase crop yields by ~4% or more, which increases grower value to an additional $200 million per year. This increase not only provides a significant return on a grower’s investment through more optimized crop production numbers, but also helps to create a sustainable pollination system into the future that takes the risk out of pollinating in irregular bloom seasons. On top of that, there is the potential to save farmers millions of dollars on beehive rentals and maintenance.

Olombria Is Still Very Early-Stage — What Gives THRIVE Confidence That They Will Succeed?

  1. Tashia, Louis and Greg are impressive in their own right — they studied together at the Royal College of Art (RCA) and built Olombria out of RCA’s 2017 Biodesign Challenge. Within a year of starting the business, they closed a pre-seed funding round with multiple investors and have ongoing trials and partnerships with over a dozen of the UK’s key growers and agricultural organizations. In the process, they have also built up an impressive team of scientists and researchers including the world’s leading behavioral entomologists, chemical ecologists, fly experts and pollination biology experts.
  2. Despite the fact that almonds and berries have relatively short bloom seasons, they are high-value crops with a huge TAM potential. Olombria is targeting all crops that require pollination.
  3. Olombria’s business model is accessible to farmers of all sizes and involves a low-cost subscription service for both the IoT nodes and data aggregation. Despite the low cost to farmers, the profit margins for Olombria are still respectably high.
  4. Olombria has very few competitors in the space — in fact, it is a stretch to even consider beekeepers to be competitors, despite bees being the biggest competitor to hoverflies in pollination. They are, in fact, supplementary to each other in the field and do not have any negative effects on the pollinating capabilities of the other group. In addition, utilizing beekeeping services means purchasing costly hives and labor-intensive maintenance to go along with it. If the bee population continues to dwindle, flies will have to come to the rescue. Walmart also created some buzz (pun intended) recently for patenting autonomous robot bees. While intriguing, this solution has not yet proven to be as effective as natural bees or flies, is difficult to implement and has high upfront Cap Ex considerations. But the advent of robotic pollination helps Olombria by further validating the market need for a pollination alternative to bees.
  5. Olombria is future-proofing their technology. Vertical farming is a sector of agriculture that has been growing at a phenomenal rate over the past few years. As urban populations continue to proliferate, high-tech and vertically integrated farming solutions will become more highly sought-after. With next-gen farming companies like Bowery Farming, Plenty, BrightFarms and AeroFarms raising mega financing rounds of upwards of $100 million+, it is clear to see that indoor farming is the next frontier of agriculture. With that said, many fruits and plants grown indoors also require pollination. Right now, this is being done using a combination of robotic bees (expensive), hand pollination (low precision) and artificial wind pollination (costly and space-prohibitive). These are band-aid fixes but are not sustainable solutions in the long-term. Due to the closed environment of indoor farms, honeybees are not a viable pollinating solution. This leaves a relatively wide-open opportunity for Olombria to utilize the versatility of flies to create the next generation of pollinators for indoor use.

I’m excited about what Olombria has built so far, and keen to see them successfully launch their product into market. I love investing in sharp founders with low egos and copious amounts of confidence in executing on their vision. We are so impressed with how polished the team is and how well they work together. To sum it up: the Olombria team is “pretty fly”.

Founder Spotlight: Karen Schuett, Founder & CEO, Livestock Water Recycling

Livestock Water Recycling: Creating value for  food producers by reducing the expense and impact of waste liquids

In the weeks leading up to Forbes-THRIVE Demo Day, we will highlight each of our startup companies, their technologies, and our reason for investing in them. This week, we highlight Livestock Water Recycling, based in Calgary, Canada and founded by Karen Schuett, which uses both mechanical and chemical treatments to remove manure contaminants and segregate valuable fertilizer nutrients at large livestock operations. Read more in the interview with Karen below and in ‘Why We Invested‘, a series written by our THRIVE Accelerator Manager, Jonathan Hua, that provides insight on how each THRIVE portfolio company aligns with our firm’s investment thesis.

 

  1. Can you talk about the LWR technology, and what kind of impact it has on the customer/farming operation? 

LWR creates value for food producers by reducing the expense and impact of waste liquids. The recently re-launched LWR2System is a proven, patented, commercialized nutrient recovery platform.Now equipped with data accumulation sensors for our subscription-based analytics program, the System reduces the volume of manure and bio liquids, concentrates nutrients into valuable crop fertilizers, and delivers a renewable, high-quality clean water source. At the height of the farm-to-table social movement consumers are demanding transparency. This technology is designed to achieve optimized production, maximum crop yields, and a high return on investment, while minimizing the environmental impact of food production.

Livestock producers who have installed the system have been given back the control of their water and waste stream. They can avoid adding expensive manure storage and can expand their herds to feed more people without increasing their water footprint. The water that is being recycled is making farms cleaner and safer for animals and employees. Farms are reducing the amount of freshwater that they are using for irrigation and are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by over 61%. Crop yields have also increased due to precision nutrient application.

 

  1. You talk about the circular economy – how does this kind of systems thinking inform what you do and what you are trying to achieve?

Environmental impact lies at the heart of the circular economy and the LWR manure treatment platform protects the environment while helping producers stay competitive. Our technology is designed to extract the maximum value from manure by recovering and segregating all the resources locked inside. Farms no longer have large volumes of dilute manure they are trying to get rid of, but instead have concentrated products that can create a manure economy.  This manure-based fertilizer is especially valuable to crops that are looking for organics and not synthetic fertilizers.

Farmers who install the LWR System can confidently say to their consumers that no resources were lost or wasted in the making of their products!

The key to our process is the ability to recover over 90% of the phosphorus in the manure solids as a dry fertilizer that can be re-used or sold.  This solid contains valuable organics that also regenerate soils.  The liquid fertilizer also created contains valuable micronutrients together with concentrated potassium and nitrogen.  Again, this is a saleable product.  This liquid can easily be applied with conventional irrigation equipment as it is solid-free.

 

Karen at SXSW, where she pitched before a panel of five judges and agtech and foodtech enthusiasts during the Land O’Lakes Copernicus Project installation

 

  1. One of the key tensions in climate-proofing/introducing new environmental practices to farming is that they are a financial drain on already strained farm operations- can you talk about the economics of LWR and why it is in a farmers best self interest?

Traditional manure management costs are high and add nothing to the bottom line of a large livestock operations. As an example, a1,000 cow dairy can spend $306,130 a year to get manure from the cow to the field and a dairy farm with 2,500 cows produces as much waste as a city with 411,000 people!Expansion of US farms is restricted due to a lack of available land for manure spreading and storage, limiting both food production and revenue growth. Dairy and hog producers are currently spending between 2-4¢/gallon on their manure management using outdated lagoon and spreading systems. By installing the LWR System, producers can reduce costs to 1¢/gallon or less.

In particular, dairies who are using this technology are also improving their milk quality and increasing production. When a barn is clean and dry, the cows are cleaner and more comfortable. When a cow lays down on clean, comfortable bedding, her blood flow increases, which increases her milk production. We have also seen a 30% reduction in somatic cell counts, and reductions in slippage, injury, and mastitis where our technology has been installed.  These added benefits show their can be economic uptick involved with improved environmental practices!

 

  1. Provide some of LWR’s key metrics in terms of financial impact, environmental impact, and how large the market is for a technology like this? 

LWR Systems that are installed across the US have a combined ability to recycle over 775,000,000 gallons of manure annually with the potential recovery of over 550 million of gallons of clean, reusable water!  That’s enough water to fill 829 Olympic sized pools, or the annual water consumption of over 15,000 Americans.

Our costs savings for farmers includes reductions on manure management expenses from 1-3 cents/gallon plus the potential to increase feed crop production. This increase is significant because feed crops are the largest single expense for livestock farmers.

Manure is the most exciting and significant opportunity we have encountered in our 20+ years in the water treatment industry due to the size of the market, the magnitude of the problem, the value proposition we can provide to farms, and consumer trends of transparency & authenticity. Our total available market size $77 billion and our serviceable available market is $8 billion. This includes dairy, hog, mixed waste anaerobic digesters, and beef cattle feedlot operations in the US alone.

 

  1. One fun fact about you (outside of founding and running LWR!)

Karen is a space enthusiast who is always on the look out for her opportunity for space travel.

SVG Ventures Announces its THRIVE V Seed Accelerator Cohort

 

 

April 4, 2019— Los Gatos, CA– The SVG Ventures-THRIVE AgTech platform announced today the nine startup finalists that comprise its 5th annual seed accelerator cohort.

Following 6 months of rigorous research and analysis these nine companies were selected from a global applicant pool of 275 companies across 67 countries. SVG Ventures-THRIVE will invest $100k in each company bringing their total investment portfolio to 39 companies and making them one of the most active AgTech investors in the sector.  Additionally SVG recently held a THRIVE-X Challenge at SXSW and invested $100k in the winning company, Agshift, and has also made a follow up investment in Microgen, one of its THRIVE III cohort companies.

The cohort’s technology categories range from big data & analytics (The Bee Corp, FarmX, Intelliconn, Wellntel, Livestock Water Recycling), to robotics (Tensorfield Technologies), next gen farms (Alesca Life Technologies), and biotechnology (Olombria, ProteoSense), and address key agriculture and food challenges such as food safety/security, labor shortages and resource constraint/environmental concerns.

The nine startups will participate in the SVG Ventures-THRIVE Accelerator Program, a four month program which kicked off in February and culminates at the Forbes-THRIVE Demo Day during the Forbes AgTech Summit on June 26 in Salinas, California. Over the course of the intensive accelerator program, companies will be provided live and virtual coaching covering topics such as go-to-market strategy, supply chain, field deployment, fundraising and global expansion. The accelerator program  emphasizes critical industry relationships and market traction by providing top tier agriculture, business and technology mentorship and connecting startups with THRIVE’s corporate innovation partners.

“Each year, we are truly impressed with the caliber of our startup teams and the quality of their technology solutions and this year is no exception,” said John Hartnett, founder and CEO of SVG Ventures-THRIVE. “We look forward to helping our THRIVE V startups succeed and scale their solutions for real impact in the food and agriculture industries over the course of the next few months.”

Register now for the Forbes-THRIVE Demo Day.

 

Introducing the THRIVE V Cohort- 2019

 

Creates next-gen urban farming solutions (i.e. in shipping containers) using advanced software technology.

Leadership: Tsuyoshi Stuart Oda, CEO

Location: China

Alesca Life is an agricultural technology company that builds weatherproof, cloud-connected farms to enable local food production by anyone anywhere. The startup was founded in August 2013, and over the past 5 years has developed hardware, IoT and IT products to modernize the agricultural industry and dramatically improve productivity, consistency, and efficiency.

 

Predictive data analytics and infrared technology for beehives to monitor hive-health.

Location: Bloomington, IN

Leadership: Ellie Symes, CEO

The Bee Corp’s product, Verifli applies data analytics to beehives to help growers ensure effective pollination through infrared inspection technology. The Bee Corp increases yield for farmers by monitoring the number, health and distribution of pollinating bees. Since launching the product February 2019, The Bee Corp has inspected over 6,700 beehives.

 

 

Precise irrigation optimization from a comprehensive sensor package.

Leadership: Tushar Dave, CEO

Location: Berkeley, CA

FarmX uniquely provides farmers with a complete monitoring and analysis solution that improves productivity immediately. FarmX scales quickly and appeals to all types of farmers with its analytics-service model. FarmX differentiates in its full-spectrum analytics offering which combine PCA, irrigation management, crop advisory services and adverse conditions monitoring into one simple solution.

 

Leading edge solutions for grain quality and quantity data acquisition, management, connectivity & remote monitoring.

Leadership: Ken Jackson, CEO

Location: Saskatoon, SK, Canada

Intelliconn manufactures and sells leading edge solutions for grain quality and quantity data acquisition and management as well as farm connectivity and remote monitoring and control solutions.

 

Creating value for  food producers by reducing the expense and impact of waste liquids.

Leadership: Karen Schuett, CEO

Location: Calgary, Alberta Canada

The LWR System is the only proven commercialized technology that reduces the overall volume of manure, concentrates nutrients into a valuable solid fertilizer, a crop additive liquid fertilizer, and delivers a renewable, high-quality water source.

 

Insect pollination solution that curates fly behavior to increase pollination and ensure greater crop yields.

Leadership: Tashia Tucker, CEO

Location: London, UK

Olombria uses specific species of flies to supplement bees as primary pollinators. Flies already do about 30% of the world’s pollination, but the Olombria technology substantially increases their effectiveness. They use advanced, natural chemical signaling and mapping technologies to choreograph their behavior, placing them just where the crops need them to be.

 

Solid-state biosensor technology for food safety testing.

Leadership: Mark Brynes, CEO

Location: Columbus, OH

ProteoSense LLC is commercializing RapidScan™, a solid-state biosensor technology for food stafety testing. ProteoSense’s high-sensitivity field portable system detects foodborne pathogens without incubation, reducing total test time from days to minutes – a 10x improvement over existing tests. Partnering with Taylor Farms, a leading producer of fresh-cut vegetables, ProteoSense is developing tests for Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, and Listeria – the primary foodborne pathogens – that can be administered on-site by non-technical personnel.

 

 

Collaborative robots that perform non-invasive, no-herbicide weeding using thermal micro-dosing techniques.

Leadership: Xiong Chang, CEO

Location: San Jose / Salinas Valley

Tensorfield Agriculture is building the next generation of agricultural machines, initially to address three primary concerns of growers worldwide: the cost and availability of labor, the threat of herbicide resistance and the anticipated legislative burdens around using existing herbicides. The science is clear: the only way to mitigate the threat of herbicide resistance is to reduce or end our reliance on them, with the only viable alternative being the development and commercialization of new strategies for weed control. They leverage our deep manufacturing ties in Shenzhen, China to iterate fast and produce robots that can scale to multiple geographies and crop types: robots that they believe are the future of maintaining our ongoing supply of safe, sustainable fresh food.

 

  

Wellntel’s groundwater monitoring technology and insight  make groundwater visible and manageable.

Leadership: Marian Singer, CEO

Location: Morro Bay, CA and Milwaukee, WI

Wellntel is a groundwater-level monitoring technology and information system company. They sell sensor equipment, field services and cloud-based data services to turn irrigation wells into real-time groundwater supply monitoring points. With Wellntel, farmers and growers get the groundwater supply and seasonal trend data they need to inform operational plans, measure progress and sustainably manage their resource.

 

 

About SVG Ventures-THRIVE

SVG-THRIVE is the leading agri-food innovation ecosystem, comprised of top agriculture, food & technology corporations, universities and investors. With a community of over 1,500 startups from 67 countries, the THRIVE platform invests, accelerates and creates unparalleled access for entrepreneurs to scale globally. SVG Ventures-THRIVE is based in Silicon Valley, California.

www.svgpartners.com www.thriveagtech.com

 

 

 

THRIVE Announces 2019 Top 50 Report Highlighting Leading Growth Stage Companies & Unicorn Predictions in Food and AgTech

San Francisco, March 11, 2019 – SVG Ventures today announced its 2019 THRIVE Top 50 Report, an annual ranking of 50 leading global AgTech companiesexemplifying the best in agriculture and food-focused innovation. Recognizing companies across 6 different technology categories and seven problem areas within agriculture and food, the list is the result of six months of rigorous research and analysiswith input provided by SVG Ventures corporate partners’ Trimble, Land O’Lakes, Wilbur Ellis, Taylor Farms, Elanco, Corteva, E&J Gallo Winery, Verizon Wireless, the City of Salinas, Western Growers Association, Yamaha Motor Venture & Laboratory Silicon Valley, Driscoll’s Berries, JV Smith, and Wells Fargo.

 

The 2019 report uses data from SVG Ventures’ startup database and supplementary industry data to identify 50 companies that are series A funded and have recently fundraised as well as have a product in market. The final fifty companies reflected in this year’s report were then categorized into six main technology categories- Biotechnology, Connected Devices, Cloud Services/Saas, Robotics & Automation, Next-Gen Farms, and Big Data & Analytics- and seven problem areas- Health & Nutrition, Labor, Farm Management, Environmental Sustainability, Food Safety, Traceability, And E-Commerce.

 

The report also includes analysis and highlights of industry exits, including the purchase of previous THRIVE Top 50 companies Agrible, by Nutrien for $63M, and Strider by Syngenta, amongst other purchases led by Land O’Lakes, Merck and Jain Irrigation.

 

In addition, 2019’s report includes THRIVE’s 25 Ones to Watch, a list is comprised of 25 agtech companies that fell just short of meeting the top 50 criteria(series A, recent large fundraise and a product in market).

 

Finally,2019 Unicorn Contenders predicts the industry’s next billion-dollar companies, and this year is dominated by vertically integrated ‘next-gen’ farms including AeroFarms and Brightfarms, and top biotechnology contenders Gingko Bioworks and Indigo Ag.

 

“This year’s awardees are developing incredible solutions that enable the agriculture and food industries to respond in a proactive way to urgent environmental challenges, labor shortages, food security, and human health concerns” said SVG Ventures-THRIVE Founder and CEO John Hartnett, “Top 50 companies are critical assets to the industry and we are proud to highlight the incredible spectrum of innovation represented by this year’s Top 50.”

THRIVE Top 50 company founders and executives, including CropIn Technology Solutions, AeroFarms, Pivot Bio, Prospera, Taranis Ag, Bension Hill Biosciences and Solinftech, will present onstage during THRIVE’s AgTech Innovation Summit on March 27, hosted for the first time at Santa Clara University.

 

Big Data Analytics

Ceres Imaging

Farmer’s Edge Laboratories

Farmers Business Network

Phytech Inc

PrecisionHawk, Inc

ProducePay

Prospera

Resson

Taranis

 

Biotechnology

AgBiome

Agriprotein

Apeel Sciences

Benson Hill Biosystems

Cibus

Clear Labs

Concentric Ag Corporation

Cool Planet Energy Systems

Ginkgo Bioworks

Inari

Indigo

Myco Technology

Nuritas

Pairwise Plants

Phytelligence

Pivot Bio

PlantResponse

Provivi

Rootility

SafeTraces

VoloAgri

Zymergen

 

Cloud Services/SaaS

Agriwebb

AgWorld

Cibo Technologies

Conservis

CropIn Technologies

FarmLogs

Farmobile

 

Connected Devices

Advanced Animal Diagnostics

CropX

Hortau

Semios

Solinftec

Stellapps technologies Pvt. Ltd.

Understory

 

Next Gen Farms

AeroFarms

Bowery Farming

BrightFarms

Plenty Inc.

 

Robotics & Automation

Harvest Automation

 

About SVG Ventures-THRIVE

SVG-THRIVE is the leading agri-food innovation ecosystem, comprised of top agriculture, food & technology corporations, universities and investors. With a community of over 1,500 startups from 67 countries, the THRIVE platform invests, accelerates and creates unparalleled access for entrepreneurs to scale globally. SVG Ventures-THRIVE is based in Silicon Valley, California.

 

SVG Ventures-THRIVE Platform Announces Strategic Partnership With E. & J. Gallo Winery

San Francisco, California (March 11, 2019) – SVG Ventures, a California-based venture and innovation firm, announced today its latest partnership with E. & J. Gallo Winery (Gallo), the world’s largest family-owned winery.

 

As an industry leader committed to innovation, Gallo will leverage the SVG Ventures-THRIVE AgTech brand to identify and accelerate disruptive technologies for the wine industry. A $35 billion industry in the U.S. with the size of the global market reaching $423 billion by 2023, wine represents a significant opportunity for disruptive tech startups. Despite growth and significant M&A activity led by Gallo,the industry faces challenges  as consumer preferences around the world evolve and retail contexts are changing.

 

“We are very excited to partner with SVG Ventures-THRIVE Platform to advance innovation in the wine industry” said Greg Coleman, Vice President of Central Valley Grower Relations.  He added, “we are continuously looking for new ways to drive efficiencies in our business and to keep up with growing demand and changing consumer preferences.”

 

“We are delighted to welcome Gallo as the latest partner to join our global agtech investment and innovation platform,” said John Hartnett, Founder & CEO of SVG Ventures-THRIVE.  “Wine is an incredible opportunity for our startups and we look forward to tapping into the expertise of Gallo,” he added.

 

Leadership from E. & J. Gallo Winery will attend the THRIVE Innovation Summit in late March.

 

About E. & J. Gallo Winery

Founded by brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo in 1933 in Modesto, California, E. & J. Gallo Winery is the world’s largest family-owned winery and the acclaimed producer of award-winning wines and spirits featured in more than 110 countries around the globe. A pioneer in the art of grape growing, winemaking, sustainable practices, marketing and worldwide distribution, Gallo crafts and imports wines and spirits to suit a diverse range of tastes and occasions, from everyday offerings to boutique, luxury bottlings.

 

The Gallo portfolio is comprised of more than 100 unique brands, including Barefoot Cellars, Dark Horse, and Gallo Family Vineyards, as well as premium box wines The Naked Grape and Vin Vault. Premium offerings include Apothic, Carnivor, Chateau Souverain, Columbia Winery, Ecco Domani, Edna Valley Vineyard, J Vineyards & Winery, Louis M. Martini, MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Mirassou, Orin Swift, Talbott Vineyards, and William Hill Estate, along with highly acclaimed imports, such as Alamos, Brancaia, La Marca, Las Rocas, Martín Códax, Whitehaven, and LUX Wines, importers of Allegrini, Argiano, Jermann, Pieropan and Renato Ratti. Gallo Spirits offers New Amsterdam Vodka and Gin and E&J Brandy, in addition to imported Scotch whiskies from Whyte & Mackay, including The Dalmore, Jura Single Malt and John Barr Blended.

 

ABOUT SVG Ventures-THRIVE

Since 2011, Silicon Valley Global “SVG” has been building a global AgTech innovation platform that accelerates, invests, and works with entrepreneurs, investors, and Fortune 500 food, agriculture, and technology corporations. THRIVE’s mission is to solve key industry challenges, test technologies in the field and across the supply chain, and build partnerships across the ecosystem in order to shorten the time it takes to bring innovation to market. SVG Ventures is based in Silicon Valley, California.

 

NEWS RELEASE: California venture, innovation firm to expand to Midwest, partner with Indiana-based entities, advance livestock and plant sciences health

California venture, innovation firm to expand to Midwest, partner with Indiana-based entities, advance livestock and plant sciences health

SVG Partners expands THRIVE AgTech into livestock and agbiosciencesin Midwest with newest partners National Pork Board, AgriNovus Indiana, Elanco Animal Health, Purdue Foundry and with long-term partner Land O’Lakes

SAN FRANCISCO and INDIANAPOLIS – SVG Partners, a California-based venture and innovation firm, announced today the expansion of its West Coast-based THRIVE AgTech program to the Midwest to focus specifically on animal health and support agriculture advancements.

The expanded accelerator follows the Forbes AgTech Summit held in Indianapolis this fall. The collaboration will build a bridge between THRIVE Silicon Valley and the Midwest with new corporate partners including the National Pork Board, AgriNovus Indiana, Elanco Animal Health, long-term THRIVE partner Land O’Lakes, Inc. with startup support from Purdue Foundry.

With this expansion, THRIVE aims to develop a targeted pipeline of livestock management and animal health startups, validating and scaling new technologies for the livestock vertical and expand its support of emerging plant science and biotechnology startups.

“Monitoring animal health and preventing animal disease outbreaks is vital to our food supply chain,” said SVG Partners founder and CEO John Hartnett. “We look forward to leveraging our new partnerships with the National Pork Board, Agrinovus Indiana and Elanco Animal Health, as well as our existing partner Land O’Lakes to providestrategic and technical expertise and key resources to startup companies developing technologies for livestock producers.”

SVG Partners launched the THRIVE Accelerator in 2014 to accelerate technology for agriculture with early partners including Taylor Farms, Driscoll’s Berries, JV Smith and western growers. With the Forbes AgTech Summit, SVG Partners recognized the opportunity to expand THRIVE into the Midwest in order to more readily address the geography’s robust livestock sector and biotechnology expertise.

“Working with new local partners in Indiana, we will be able to build on the success of our West Coast-based accelerator in order to deliver targeted technology to livestock farmers in the region and beyond,” Hartnett said.

THRIVE is pleased to welcome the National Pork Board to its AgTech Venture & Innovation Platform. The National Pork Board, funded by more than 60,000 U.S. pork producers and pork importers, centers its industry’s work on reinforcing pork’s role as a sustainable, responsibly raised protein.

“We look forward to working closely with THRIVE to accelerate animal health technologies. This partnership aligns well with our producer’s ongoing efforts to build upon our foundation of providing a healthy, safe, environmentally sustainable product for the food supply chain,” said Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board. “Over the past several decades, pork producers have decreased the carbon footprint and both land and water usage. Technology is critical to driving sustainable, efficient production through a commitment to environmental sustainability and animal welfare.”

Elanco, a leading animal health company with its headquarters in Greenfield, Indiana, also joins the program. The company works to provide veterinarians, food producers, and pet owners with the tools needed to help animals live healthy lives.

“We are pleased to see THRIVE AgTech expand into the Midwest, especially at a time when Indiana’s AgBioScience innovation ecosystem is flourishing,” said Aaron Schacht, executive vice president of Innovation, Regulatory and Business Development at Elanco. “We believe programs such as THRIVE can provide a valuable and complementary path for the development of next generation technologies in animal health. We’re looking forward to the opportunities this will bring.”

The program expansion will bring together existing and new partnerships with corporates, academia, investors and startups to foster new AgTech opportunities for the region’s economy.

“Our region is home to a large concentration of livestock producers and animal health-focused corporations, and equally strong in its advancements in the plant sciences,” said Beth Bechdol, president and CEO of AgriNovus Indiana. “We are delighted to bring SVG Partner’s resources and expertise to the Midwest to support the vision of making Indiana the home of globally recognized agbioscience innovation.”

Purdue University is Indiana’s land-grant university with a nationally ranked College of Agriculture and College of Veterinary Medicine. The Purdue Foundry is a startup accelerator that manages the university’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“The technologies coming out of the outstanding research in agriculture, veterinary medicine and across campus support a strong pipeline of technology commercialization and startup creation,” said Greg Deason, senior vice president of entrepreneurship and place making for Purdue Research Foundation. “We are excited by what THRIVE will bring to the Midwest in advancing the entire region’s growth in the agrosciences and agbiosciences.”

Existing THRIVE partners such as Corteva, EY and Trimble already have significant resources in the Midwest and will help to deepen THRIVE’s activity in row crop production agriculture activity there.

As another strategic geographical partner, Purdue Foundry will help to root THRIVE expansion in the Midwest by connecting university talent with THRIVE’s network and resources.

A THRIVE partner since 2016, Land O’Lakes, Inc. is committed to modernizing agriculture through digitalization.

“Over the past several years, we have worked to develop a suite of digital tools through our Answer Tech®platform to help hundreds of row crop farmers optimize their operations by increasingyield potential and reducing risk,” said Teddy Bekele senior vice president and chief technology officer at Land O’Lakes.  “We look forward to working with THRIVE and other Midwest partners to deliver targeted innovation to the thousands of dairy producers we work with in the region.”

THRIVE’s expansion into the Midwest was announced today (Thursday, Nov. 29) during AgriNovus’ fourth annual Agbioscience Innovation Summit in Indiana.

For more information about THRIVE, visit www.thriveagtech.com.

 

About SVG Partners

Since 2011, SVG Partners has been building a global AgTech innovation platform that accelerates, invests, and works with entrepreneurs, investors, and Fortune 500 food, agriculture, and technology corporations. Founded in 2014, THRIVE AgTech’s mission is to solve key industry challenges, test technologies in the field and across the supply chain, and build partnerships across the ecosystem in order to shorten the time it takes to bring innovation to market. SVG Partners is based in Silicon Valley, California.

 

About National Pork Board

The National Pork Board has responsibility for producer-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula.

 

About Elanco

Founded in 1954, Elanco provides comprehensive products and knowledge services to improve animal health and food-animal production in more than 90 countries around the world. We value innovation, both in scientific research and daily operations, and strive to cultivate a collaborative work environment for more than 5,800 employees worldwide. Together with our customers, we are committed to raising awareness about global food security, and celebrating and supporting the human-animal bond. Our worldwide headquarters and research facilities are located in Greenfield, Indiana.

 

About AgriNovus Indiana

AgriNovus Indiana is the state’s initiative focused on advancing the agbiosciences sector as a nationally recognized leader through education, research and talent development; strategic collaborations among corporations, industry associations, government and universities; the creation and support of new companies; and branding and targeted promotions to elevate the sector. AgriNovus Indiana is part of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, an effort dedicated to the region’s continued prosperity and growth. To learn more, visit agrinovusindiana.com.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundryis an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was co-named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship.For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

 

 

About Land O’Lakes

Land O’Lakes, Inc., one of America’s premier agribusiness and food companies, is a member-owned cooperative with industry-leading operations that span the spectrum from agricultural production to consumer foods. With 2017 annual sales of $14 billion, Land O’Lakes is one of the nation’s largest cooperatives, ranking 216 on the Fortune 500. Building on a legacy of more than 97 years of operation, Land O’Lakes today operates some of the most respected brands in agribusiness and food production including LAND O LAKES® Dairy Foods, Purina Animal Nutrition, WinField United and Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN. The company does business in all 50 states and more than 60 countries. Land O’Lakes, Inc. corporate headquarters are located in Arden Hills, Minn.

 

 

 

 

Media contacts:

 

Emily Breslin, SVG Partners

(650) 666-7521

Emily.breslin@svgpartners.com

 

Colleen Parr Dekker, Elanco
(317) 989-7011
parr_dekker_colleen@elanco.com

 

270+ Companies from 55 Countries Apply to THRIVE Accelerator 2018-2019 Cohort

Applications to THRIVE’s Seed Accelerator closed October 31 and we are delighted to announce that we received nearly 300 applications from 55 countries. Going into its fifth year, THRIVE continues to expand its presence in new regions around the world with the help of our corporate partners including Coca Cola, Trimble, Heidenhain, Taylor Farms, EY, Driscoll’s Berries, Land O’Lakes, Verizon, Wells Fargo and Corteva Agriscience and global affiliates.

Technologies from applicant companies covered an equal distribution between next gen farms, big data analytics, food tech and supply chain, with robotics and automation, biotechnology and e-commerce solutions representing a smaller but significant share of this year’s cohort pool. The problem areas addressed by these companies include crop protection and nutrition, farm management, labor and food security.

 

In the coming weeks, all applications will be reviewed THRIVE’s SVG team and corporate partners, with ten companies selected to participate in the accelerator program kicking off during THRIVE’s Seed Camp in spring 2019. The ten selected companies will be announced in February 2019.

 

Other THRIVE News:

Registration open for THRIVE Innovation Summit March 27: 
Hosted for the third year on March 27 at Santa Clara University, the THRIVE Innovation Summit will bring together 250 agribusiness leaders, investors, growers, and agtech and foodtech startups from around the world to discuss the challenges and solutions for the agriculture industry. We are pleased to welcome Beth Ford, CEO, Land O’Lakes as our keynote speaker. Agenda topics include Blockchain – ‘Solving Agricultural Supply Chain Problems One “Byte” at a Time’, ‘Mega City Farming – How Indoor and Vertical Farming Can Help Feed the World’, ‘The Potential of Biotechnology – Addressing Critical Food Security Issues’, and ‘Automated Agriculture – Robots From Planting to Harvest’. Register now.

Nominations for THRIVE’s 2019 TOP 50 are open:

THRIVE is looking for agtech startups disrupting the agriculture and food sectors through innovation and technology to be a selected as part of THRIVE’s Top 50. Companies are required to have a product in market and be at least series A+ in order to qualify for Top 50. Nominate now.

The Fast-Growing World of Indoor Farming

The image of the modern-day farm extends from a well-orchestrated landscape of lettuce heads, to a chic building in inner city Newark, New Jersey.

Welcome to AeroFarms, one of the largest indoor farming companies in the U.S. and one of the pioneers of the indoor farming sector in the US. The glass exteriors of the front façade — of what was once a steel mill — reveal rows of leafy greens and micro greens in vertically stacked trays.

AeroFarms is a success when it comes to both its products and fundraising.

According to data provider Crunchbase, since AeroFarms was founded in 2004, the company has raised some $138 million to date. Its high-profile investors include Swedish company IKEA Group, former U.S. Army General David Petraeus and American restauranteur David Chang the founder of the Momofuku Group.The company has 120 full time employees including a robust team of scientists, researchers and engineers mostly based at its Newark headquarters.

But AeroFarms is not an anomaly, it is part of one of the fastest growing segments of agriculture — indoor farming. According to the 2017 Agrilyst report, indoor farming makes up 30 percent of facility type, second to the green house. An estimated 49 percent is grown via hydroponics while 24 percent is soil based.

While the geography of the farms varies extensively, indoor farms share some commonalities.

The majority are in or near big cities where they occupy what were once warehouses. Most of the farms grow micro greens, herbs and baby lettuce or spinach.

These include BrightFarms based in Irvington, New York just north of Manhattan, Freight Farms, Detroit Dirt, Edenworks and SproutsIO.

Funding in the indoor farming space is on the uptick. Indoor farming startups around the world raised $285 million since 2017 with the U.S. leading the pack when it comes to amount of investment, according to AgFunder data.

This past June, for example, Crop One Holdings the parent company of Freshbox Farms signed a $40 million joint venturewith the catering arm of global airline Emirates to build a vertical farm.

The indoor farming boom is also catching on in the Midwest and West Coast too. In 2017 San Francisco-based indoor farming company Plenty Ag received an infusion of $200 million from Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund.

“Following the $200m investment made by Softbank in Californian vertical farming startup Plenty, we’ve seen patchy growth in vertical farming investment,” said Michael Dean, chief investment officer at online venture capital investor AgFunder. “Outside cannabis, new entrants in the production space have generally found raising capital a challenge as investors tended to focus on niche technology developers and the established vertical farms who were able to sufficiently de-risk and prove supply chains were viable, and ready for expansion.”

An hour away by plane Oasis Biotech’s vertical farming facility is thriving in Las Vegas with over 217,000 square feet of 18 varieties of baby lettuce and 10 varieties of specialty herbs.

In the Midwest, 42 percent of farms who responded to the report’s survey are indoor vertical operations and 50 percent are in urban areas, according to Agrilyst.

John Hartnett founder and CEO of SVG Ventures and the THRIVE Accelerator. “We are increasingly on the lookout for startups with technologies that address the increasing constraints to in-field growing, and indoor farming is a category that is demonstrating real efficiencies in this sense.”

Climate change, labor shortage

The genesis of AeroFarms started as a solution to the supply chain, which is infamously lengthy in the agriculture sector.

“Originally, we thought we were about a supply chain disruption. How do we bypass a very complex supply chain and develop a fresher product,” said Marc Oshima a co-founder of AeroFarms and Chief Marketing Officer in an interview with THRIVE.

But the co-founders, David Rosenberg CEO and Ed Harwood, Chief Science Officer, fast learned that they had more in common with traditional growers than initially thought. The growth of indoor farming was also prompted by perennial ag challenges such as limited water supply and a severe labor shortage.

Oshima continued, “We had seen what the macro challenges were — population growth, urbanization, challenges to traditional farming, loss of arable land. We realized we needed some new paradigms, and some new systems. From day one our lens has been very much global in nature.” The company for example uses no soil and 95 percent less water than a traditional farm.

“Our way of growing and systemic growth is really about setting a new standard for farming overall,” said Oshima.

Agtech and indoor farming appear to be a natural match, considering the requirements of indoor farming. Within a contained space there are meticulously monitored conditions, and natural conditions replaced with LED lights and pools of water rather than soil.

AeroFarms keeps all of its innovation and research inhouse, and has its own team of over 30 mechanical and electrical engineers. Oshima stresses the technology, which has included designing their own LED lighting rays, is proprietary.

Other indoor farms such as BrightFarms (THRIVE Top 50 winner) look externally for innovation.

Innovation can include machine learning or AI to “help us understand the growth patterns of our crops as they are growing,” said Abby Prior, Bright Farms Vice President of Marketing.

“We do have some internal development, but we are just looking for the best technology. We are using the tools that are being developed by other startups, and by other agtech technologies to help improve our process,” said Prior.

Technology is “extremely important,” Prior said. “We look to benefit from technology that is available and quickly catching up with the controlled development world.”

At BrightFarms technologies have helped increase efficiency, crop yield and produce quality, she said.

BrightFarms has four operating farms including Bucks County Pennsylvania, Culpepper, Virginia, Rochelle, Illinois and the newest one in Ohio, where the company is expanding its Midwest footprint.

The company uses hydroponic green houses to farm. BrightFarms’ growers regularly work with breeder and seed companies to identity new kinds of greens; for example, a new product launched earlier this year was “Happy Beet” created from the green part of the beet. (top of beets)

Consumer demand

In the grand scheme of things, indoor farming addresses the needs of consumers living metropolises where it is a given that land and water supply are limited.

“The future is that why have lettuce come to New York from California when we can grow it in the metro areas?” said Herbert Kliegerman the publisher of iGrow News, a news website focused on indoor and urban farming. “Indoor farming is controlled environmental agriculture. I see this in every major city.”

Agricultural experts and researchers say that vertical and indoor farming is here to stay, and see it on a growth trajectory globally. Countries such as Japan,known for its limited space in cities such as Tokyo, already have an existing history with indoor farming.

Neil Matson, associate professor at Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science, specializes in researching greenhouse crops and vertical farms.

Matson forecasts there will be more production facilities worldwide, higher valued horticultural crops, and more plants grown for medical purposes. Growth is also being sparked by what he calls the “foodie movement,” consumers who are increasingly keen on locally grown foods, connecting with local growers.

“People seem more interested in the providence of their food, and having a relationship or knowing how their food is produced,” said Matson, noting another drive could be food safety referring to the recent romaine lettuce scares.

This leaves opportunities for more innovation and technology in this space, particularly for robotics and lighting; two of the biggest costs of production on the urban farm remain labor and energy, Matson added.

Agtech entrepreneurs

Some agtech entrepreneurs have jumped on the bandwagon.

Tinia Pina, the founder and CEO of Re-Nuble and a member of the THRIVE IV seed accelerator, launched Re-Nuble in 2016 with the urban farm as the target. Re-Nuble is a supplier of chemical-free hydroponic fertilizer that is produced by organic produce waste. With her product Pina was intent on tackling a greater problem of food waste; Re-Nuble works with partners where they can trace food waste sourced from organic suppliers.

“We saw the demand for it,” said Pina, noting consumers are increasingly more interested in what they are purchasing and consuming.

While the timing for vertical farms seems ripe, Pina also pointed to potential challenges such as cost of real estate, notably in the country’s biggest and most cosmopolitan cities New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Despite the real estate sticker shock in big cities, vertical/indoor farming is also attracting younger people into the game.

Ricky Stephens, co-founder of AgTech X a co-working and educational space in New York City for agtech startups, said the majority of startups are in vertical or rooftop farming. Stephens said there are three drivers that are attracting young innovators: potential environmental impact, positive benefits to health and wellness and “the food — which has a sexiness and fits the Instagram-able world we live in. Finally, urban agriculture bleeds into other emerging niches within the larger sustainable food and smart city movements.”

The road ahead

AeroFarms’ Oshima said the company is interested in technologies that will help in forming what he calls the “fully connected farm.” Without divulging details, Oshima said it involves using various monitoring methods, data, sensors to better understand all aspects of the growing process from flavor, smell to yield with the goal of “continuous improvement,” he said.

To be sure, the vertical farm of the future could mean reducing the time of the harvesting cycles such as shaving a 30-day harvest by half or developing flowers with shorter stems (the company has grown edible flowers).

“We could be 390 times more productive on an annualized basis because of those crop cycles,” Oshima said. “We are also getting greater yield per square foot, and we can get greater output for that.”

AeroFarms currently grows over 400 different varieties of leafy greens.

The fully connected farm is global — extended to cities around the world — and it seeks solutions to global challenges, said Oshima pointing to the heat waves and droughts that have plagued the U.K. and the lettuce shortages in Spain and Italy.

“Technology in a science driven approach has been the backbone of our work,” said Oshima.

 

 

Agribody Technologies, Inc

Patented technology to improve crop yields by transgenic modulation or genome editing of eIF5A and DHS in plants.

THRIVE Companies Showcase at Forbes AgTech Summit Indianapolis

THRIVE accelerator companies were at the forefront of the Forbes AgTech Summit in Indianapolis last week.

Four agtech startups attended the innovation showcase included Arable, Aker Technologies, Farm Dog and 3Bar Biologics. THRIVE News caught up with the companies and learned of their recent milestones.

AKER

Aker, a member of THRIVE IV’s cohort, has much to celebrate said CEO and co-founder Orlando Saez. In September the company announced new crop and aerial imagery trials with Bayer’s crop science division, which is a leader in seed, crop protection and non-ag pest control. The trials are tracking results from Delaro, Bayer’s new corn and soybean fungicide.

In a news release, said Ray Lello, fungicides product manager at Bayer, spoke of how critical trials are to the product.

“Trials in 2017 found that Delaro provided a substantial yield increase over the untreated check in corn and soybeans. However, we also consistently heard from trial participants that they observed improved plant health from Delaro,” said Lello. “That’s why we are thrilled to collaborate with Aker to track qualitative metrics like plant health in addition to the known quantitative yield results of Delaro over the untreated check in corn and soybeans. Understanding how these benefits help contribute to an overall return on investment is beneficial for growers as they look to get the most out of their corn hybrids and soybean varieties.”

Saez credits his mentor Walt Duflock, managing partner of SVG Partners, for working closely with the company and getting them to the next level.

Arable
Arable, a member of THRIVE’s IV cohort, has been celebrating a productive year.

To start with the company, which produces a weather and plant measurement device, welcomed new CEO Jeff Keiser in July.

Arable also expanded headquarters from Princeton, NJ to Oakland, Calif., and hired another seven employees including engineers.

“We had a fantastic 2018 year – we really scaled up our sales team and solidified customer support. We developed some really amazing partnerships, we brought in new CEO in early July, and now about to hire new engineers,” said Jess Bollinger, vice president of strategic partnerships.

In 2018, Bollinger said, the focus has been on refining the device including improving yield forecast and developing into disease analytics and increasing alerts and notifications on crops

Since Arable’s product launched in June 2017, some 1,000 devices have been deployed in 22 countries globally examining some 26 different crops. It works with 150 customers including Francis Ford Coppola Winery, Ferro, Driscoll’s and The Nature Conservancy. To date, Arable has raised $13.2 million including from grants.

Bollinger credits THRIVE with connecting the company with some of its biggest clients especially with farmers and vintners in the Salinas Valley where agriculture is a $9 billion industry.

“THRIVE has helped build a really important network for us in the Salinas Valley where we have many key customers in that area who have been willing to provide strong feedback that has shaped much of our product development,” said Bollinger.

At Forbes AgTech Summit in Indianapolis, Arable was also one of nine companies chosen as part of Demo Day. During Demo Day and the Summit said they received stellar feedback for the product and ultimately more “brand visibility.”

Farm Dog 

Farm Dog’s CEO and founder Liron Brish said he has had a whirlwind summer.

Farm Dog, a member of the THRIVE IV accelerator that provides pest and disease management scouting platform, is focused on a new round of fundraising (to date the company has raised $2 million).

Brish, born in Israel and based in Tel Aviv, is also amid a transcontinental move and Los Angeles bound to be closer to the agriculture industry. A former consultant in farm harvest with McKinsey & Co., Brish said the company was awarded a number of important initiatives since joining THRIVE.

There’s the partnership with John Deere one of the largest farm equipment manufacturers in the world where Farm Dog’s software connects with Deere equipment to provide data analytics. There’s the $900,000 grant from the BIRD Foundation (The Israel-United States Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation) in Israel that is fueling the company’s research and development. Farm Dog is also working with the USDA, University of Georgia and University of Florida, on building a regional pest disease management program. Brish said Farm Dog is providing the algorithm for the program.

Farm Dog, now in a million and a half acres and has conducted more than 25,000 field visits, also seeks to build out the AI part of the platform next.

Brish said THRIVE helped the company gain even more credibility in the agtech space.

“THRIVE did good job creating a network among startups,” said Brish noting the “connections that THRIVE made to the industry” when it comes to startups. “It’s hard enough being a startup, it’s even harder being an agtech startup,” he said, noting the sector is still fairly new when it comes to investment and acceptance from growers.

3Bar Biologics

Bruce Caldwell the CEO and founder of 3Bar Biologics cited a number of the company’s laurels since it joined the THRIVE Accelerator Program in 2017.

A spin-out from Ohio State University, the company provides natural microorganisms to boost healthier crops with higher yields. 3Bar has been in hiring mode tripling the size of its team to seven staffers including on the sales and marketing front. The company also received a greenlight for its first patent and has completed a seed round of $2 million. Over the summer 3Bar conducted a trial with Land O’Lakes, the connection made through the THRIVE program.

Caldwell said the connections with corporations has been golden for 3Bar.

“There are now a lot of companies in the THRIVE network that connect with other CEOs of young startups, and some of the larger relationships have been very impactful,” he said.

The sky is the limit for the company, he said. 3Bar plans to double sales and staffing annually and expand its reach when it comes to crops and geographies.