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”.

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

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Heidenhain Corporation Joins THRIVE AgTech as Latest Partner

SAN FRANCISCO (September 24, 2018) — SVG Partners announced today that the leading manufacturer of precision measurement and control equipment, HEIDENHAIN, is the latest corporate partner to join its THRIVE AgTech Venture & Innovation Platform.

 

The partnership with HEIDENHAIN, a leader of innovative precision measurement and motion control systems for medical, general automation, electronics, and agriculture applications, will leverage the firm’s extensive expertise to advance early stage and growth stage technologies aimed at the agriculture sector.

 

“We are committed to providing functional, easy to operate technology to our customers, and with THRIVE’s view to innovative agriculture technology companies, the partnership with SVG Partners helps us to achieve this,” said Tom Wyatt, HEIDENHAIN Director of Marketing and Communications.

 

“We are delighted to welcome HEIDENHAIN to the THRIVE Venture & Innovation Platform,” said SVG Partners and THRIVE founder John Hartnett.

 

The SVG-THRIVE AgTech platform aims to connect promising startups and partners like HEIDENHAIN with new technologies and scale them across the corporate value chain. In addition to its full suite of encoders, controls and other precision measurement solutions for the manufacturing, electronics and medical industries, HEIDENHAIN is pushing the boundaries of advanced system capabilities through its development of innovation including high performance robotics controls and components in sectors such as agriculture, pulp and paper, forest and wood processing and aggregate and mining equipment.

“HEIDENHAIN is proud to be a member of the THRIVE community and we are looking forward to partnering with the other corporate and academia members,” said  Wyatt. “I don’t think most people realize the global challenges facing the food and agriculture industries. Our goal is to advance the effort with our motion control enabling technology.”

This week HEIDENHAIN leaders Chris Weber, Senior Sales Director and Jonathan Dougherty, Product Manager for Automation Products, along with Wyatt will join the SVG Partners team at the Forbes AgTech Summit in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Summit, which is being held in the Midwest for the first time, brings together experts and innovators from the food and agriculture industries to showcase new technologies and industry insights.

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About HEIDENHAIN
DR. JOHANNES  HEIDENHAIN GmbH, headquartered in Traunreut, Germany, develops and supports motion control feedback solutions for the machine tool, semiconductor, electronics assembly and test, metrology, automation, medical, energy, biotechnology and other global markets. HEIDENHAIN employs approximately 6,000 people worldwide in its core business activities. The North American subsidiary is HEIDENHAIN CORPORATION, headquartered in Schaumburg, IL, and San Jose, CA, and has been serving the U.S. industry for over 50 years. www.heidenhain.us

 

About SVG Partners and THRIVE

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.

www.thriveagtech.com

SVG & THRIVE Announce $1m investment in Third Cohort

THRIVE AGTECH HOSTS ITS THIRD SEED CAMP THIS WEEK BRINGING 10 COMPANIES FROM 5 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES TO ACCELERATE THE NEXT CLASS OF CUTTING EDGE AGRICULTURAL TECHNOLOGIES

Media contact: Emily Breslin, Emily.Breslin@SVGPartners.Com

April 11, 2017, Salinas, CA– Entering its third consecutive year, the THRIVE AgTech accelerator announced today that it will invest a total of $1m across the ten companies participating in its third cohort.  Each of the ten companies will receive a $50k cash investment plus an additional $50k in program value.  With corporate partners Taylor Farms, Land O’Lakes, Western Growers Association, Verizon, Driscoll’s Berries, Yamaha Motor Ventures & Laboratory, Panasonic, Wells Fargo, the City of Salinas, PMA, and Sun World Innovations, THRIVE AgTech has quickly evolved to become the world’s fastest growing agtech-focused accelerator and investment platform.

During the course of THRIVE’s intensive 8-week program, companies will be provided both classroom and online training in business planning, strategy, marketing, supply chain, finance, fundraising and communication skills.  Through THRIVE, the 10 seed stage companies will have access to expert guidance through a paired mentorship program, co-working space at the Western Grower’s Innovation Center in Salinas, CA, field trials with THRIVE’s corporate partners, global press and media during the Forbes AgTech Summit Demo Day, and seed capital. THRIVE mentors and corporate partners will interface with each of the ten company teams to propel agriculture towards a more sustainable, efficient, and productive future through direct collaboration, field trials, and eventually, partnership.

“Last year’s winners Trace Genomics received a $200k investment but this is the first year we have invested across the entire cohort class” SVG Partners CEO & THRIVE founder John Hartnett said, “we are excited to scale these startup companies to the next level through our THRIVE AgTech platform, partners and mentors”

Held for the third consecutive year in downtown Salinas at the Taylor Farms headquarters, Seed Camp brings together THRIVE corporate partners, mentors, and new cohort companies for a day of presentations and discussions centered on the future of agriculture. In the days following, the ten startup teams will take field tours to Hahn Winery, Taylor Farms, Driscoll’s Berries, and the Flex 9 Lab in the Silicon Valley.

 

Introducing the THRIVE III cohort- 2017

Arable

Headquartered: Princeton, New Jersey

Arable enables agricultural enterprises with real-time continuous visibility and predictive analytics of crop growth, harvest timing, yield, and quality based on in-field measurement.

 

Agrosmart

Headquartered: Campinas, Brazil

Targeting the LatAm market, Agrosmart monitors environmental conditions in real time to empower growers to make better decisions and achieve more productive and sustainable agriculture.

 

AgShift

Headquartered: Santa Clara, CA

Blending machine learning with computer vision with the mission to design a fully transparent and digitized food system.

 

Deeplook

Headquartered: San Francisco, CA

Deeplook builds robots that work autonomously in fields, can distinguish between various types of plants and growth stages, and can mechanically act on targeted plants through proprietary algorithms.

 

EZ-Lab

Headquartered: Podavo, Italy

EZ-Lab is a digital hub to manage, certificate and share agri-information, which integrates every type of data coming from a company’s information system, with the purpose of eliminating the operation of data insertion by farms and the whole agribusiness production chain.

 

FarmDog

Headquartered: Tel Aviv, Israel

Farm Dog changes the way growers choose, use, and purchase pest and disease treatments. Treatment efficacy reviews, regional alerts, and variable rate treatment application provide growers with a new toolkit to manage their fields.

 

MicroGen Biotech

Headquartered: Carlow, Ireland

Microgen Biotech utilizes patented isolation and high-throughput screening methods to isolate functional, high-performance microbiomes for application in agricultural crop production and environmental remediation.

 

Tortuga Agricultural Technologies

Headquartered: Los Gatos, CA

Tortuga AgTech builds digital horticulture facilities, which take the most advanced greenhouse growing methods and wrap them around powerful technology like robotics, automation, precision data analytics and machine learning.

 

UAV-IQ

Headquartered: Los Angeles, CA

UAV-IQ is a full service data management company that leverages cutting-edge remote sensing and drone technologies for agriculture clients.

 

3Bar Biologics

Headquartered: Columbus, Ohio

3Bar Biologics is dedicated to applying disruptive technologies to create ecologically sound products that sustainably increase yields and protect farmer’s investments in land and seed

 

ABOUT SVG PARTNERS

SVG Partners is an investment, technology and advisory firm that partners with organizations on strategy, innovation and global expansion. Since 2007, SVG’s experienced  team of senior technology leaders and venture capital investors have worked with global corporations and scaling companies to drive competitive advantage from strategy to implementation. Through its accelerator and open Innovation programs, engineering and development services, and executive strategy and advisory, SVG Partners helps build and scale innovative technology companies worldwide. SVG Partners is based in Silicon Valley, CA.  www.svgpartners.com

ABOUT THRIVE AGTECH

THRIVE AgTech’s mission is to connect the expertise of tech companies to on-the-ground knowledge of agricultural companies, the financial backing of investors, and the entrepreneurs solving problems in the AgTech space. THRIVE unites these communities in order to drive the development and adoption of sustainable technology enhancements necessary for securing the global food demands of the future. The THRIVE program targets two stages of companies, the very early to commercially ready. Early stage companies accepted into the program go through a rigorous bootcamp and receive mentorship from industry leaders to help them scale their companies. THRIVE’s Open Innovation program directly connects corporate partners with high growth startups to trial and deploy cutting edge technologies focused on agriculture.

 

  

For more information:
Emily Breslin, Community Relations, THRIVE AgTech
Emily.Breslin@SVGPartners.Com
650-666-7521