A new agricultural technology program is launching at Lemoore High School by Ag Teacher Shane Souza.
“The next level of maintenance mechanic or agricultural mechanic is going to be part welder, port electrician, part mechanic, and then part computer programmer,” said Souza.“So they’re going to have to deal with so many of the new technologies that we’re finding in ag nowadays.”
Souza would know. He spent the first part of his career working in industries such as dairy processing and energy. He pivoted his career to teaching ag after noticing how hard it was to find employees with relevant skills. Now he’s building a program that combines traditional ag mechanics with automation, robotics, and computer programming.
“I teach Ag Mechanics 1 and Ag Mechanics 2, which is the entry-level intro class, and then the ag mechanics do is the intro to welding, just because those skills are so universal, no matter where you go. And then the students have a choice,” noted Souza. “They can either continue going on with welding and fabrication or they’re going to branch off and they’re going to go into the ag technology side.”
Souza plans to develop relationships with local employers looking for these skills to create post-graduation opportunities for students. One of his ag technology courses even allows for college credit through a dual enrollment program with West Hills College.
“Agriculturalists were the original engineers. You know, they found ways on farms to help make their lives easier or more efficient. And I push that hard with my kids that, you know, everyone’s an engineer,” noted Souza. “If you’ve ever found a way to make something easier, you need to find a way to do that. And agriculture is no exception to that at all.”
AgTech Innovators Compete At Radicle Challenge By Corteva
Five Agtech Innovators Selected from Across the Globe to Compete for $250k in Funding at the Radicle Challenge by Corteva Pitch Day at World Agri-Tech
Innovators Across Water Risk Analytics, Genetic Detection, Early Disease Detection, Autonomous Robots and Soil Microbes Chosen as Finalists from the Largest Ever Pool of Applicants to a Radicle Challenge; to Pitch at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit
Radicle Growth, an acceleration platform for early-stage ag and food technologies, today announced the five entrepreneurs who have been invited to compete at the Radicle Challenge by Corteva Pitch Day competition taking place March 16, 2020 in San Francisco at the World-Agri-Tech Innovation Summit.
The Radicle Challenge by Corteva at World Agri-Tech called on entrepreneurs with technologies across the agricultural landscape who are solving problems with breakthrough technology solutions. The winner will be awarded a$250k investment, access to Radicle’s company-building platform, and the opportunity to engage with Corteva technology leaders to help shape, validate and refine their technology using virtual or actual on-the-farm assessments. It will also present on stage at the summit’s acclaimed Technology Showcase, to an audience of 1,500 agribusiness leaders.
“In just five weeks, we had our largest pool of applicants ever for a Radicle Challenge from across the globe. This confirms that entrepreneurs are hungry not only for the funding to advance the development of their technologies, but also for invaluable coaching and hands-on refining of their technology from some of the biggest names in agriculture,” said Kirk Haney, Managing Partner, Radicle Growth. “Where traditionally we see the highest concentration of applicants in digital ag technologies, we saw more entries than ever before in novel farm systems and biologicals and close to 65% from outside of the U.S. We look forward to having all of these rising stars in one room next month to pitch to our panel of judges.”
The finalists are:
Aquaoso: a SaaS water risk analytics company dubbed the “credit score for water,” which helps ag lenders, investors, growers and shippers understand the financial impacts of water risk on operators.
Holganix: a liquid soil treatment that contains a consortium of 800+ microbes to drive yield, soil health and reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
Nanobio Designs: a handheld device that uses self-assembling nanoparticles to test for the presence of GMOs.
Scanit Technologies: An in-field platform (for indoor or outdoor growers) to detect plant pathogens when they are airborne and before they infect plants.
SwarmFarm Robotics: Commercially available robots for autonomous agriculture.
Companies will be evaluated by a panel of esteemed judges, including: Corteva’s CTO, Neal Gutterson, Nutrien’s Chief Corporate Development and Strategy Officer, Mark Thompson, Corteva’s Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer Debra King, Microsoft’s Director of Agriculture, Claudia Roessler, Fall Line Capital’s Co-Founder and Managing Director, Clay Mitchell, DCVC’s Managing Partner, Kiersten Stead and Radicle Growth’s Managing Partner, Kirk Haney. The winner will be announced March 17th at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, the day after the Pitch Day Competition.
AgTech and Agritecture Reach both Out Door and Urban Ag Space
AgTech Insight LLC, Salinas, CA and Agritecture LLC, Brooklyn, NY are excited to announce the formation of a strategic alliance between the two firms. In its simplest form, AgTech Insight will advise and provide services to Agritecture clients in the large scale outdoor agriculture industry while Agritecture will advise and provide services to AgTech Insight clients in the urban agriculture space. The focus of the mutually beneficial effort is aimed at improving both the firm’s capabilities across a broader array of services for clients in the ag sector globally.
Aaron Magenheim, Founder of AgTech Insight stated that “The urban and indoor Agriculture space is rapidly growing around the world and collaborating with Agritecture, given their leadership in their industry sector and global vision using innovation and best practices to help a growing population is a natural fit! Over the past year, it has been great to work with David Ceaser and the Agritecture team sharing our expertise and working on projects together. There is a unique resource we have been developing together which we will be sharing with the world soon and are excited to be working together to bridge the Urban and large scale agriculture sectors!”
David Ceaser, Agritecture horticultural specialist said, “Agritecture is very excited about our collaboration with AgTech Insight. Urban and Peri-urban farming is generally smaller-scale agriculture and focuses on smaller more niche consumer markets. But, as far as farming goes, there is no reason to re-invent the wheel. There is a ton that we can learn from large scale outdoor ag. The vast amount of experience and knowledge that Aaron and his team bring to the table is invaluable for us.”
AgTech Insight is a global leader in full-spectrum agriculture technology consulting services. We have an elite team of subject matter experts around the world, each of whom has a unique skill set to help our clients execute both short and long-term strategies. We deliver distinctive consulting and advisory expertise to a variety of companies and large corporates, governments, investors, farmers, industry leaders, and more. Our team tracks over 3,000 digital AgTech companies around the globe and get past the smoke and mirrors to work with real companies to make a huge impact on the world’s food supply. In 2014 we saw the Agriculture and Tech industries starting to collide and were inspired to start AgTech Insight as a bridge to help these two very different industries collaborate. We specialize in sharing deep, on-the-ground experience in the emerging AgTech space that is necessary for success in this evolving industry. –http://www.agtechinsight.com/Solutions@AgTechInsight.com
Agritecture Consulting provides a comprehensive approach to CEA project development. In operation since 2014, Agritecture has helped more than ninety organizations determine the feasibility of their ideas, validate their business strategies, recruit talent for their projects, and manage operational challenges. Our job is to jumpstart your knowledge of CEA, help you navigate barriers to entry, make industry connections, and mitigate risk. Our consulting services are backed by several years of operations data and a team of
It would be overly simplistic to state that this is a tough time for growers in the U.S. The number of farms and ranches continues to decline, with a growing number of farms being sold off as farmers are faced with the rising costs of doing business, weather and climate fluctuations, limited land, and water supply and the reality that future generations of youth are turning away from agriculture as livelihood.
There are some 2 million farms and ranches down 3.2 percent from 2012, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture. Many farms, especially large ones that have depended on thousands upon thousands of farmworkers, struggle to find field workers to plant and harvest the crops especially against a backdrop of uncertain immigration policies. Add to that data that points to a world population of 10 billion by 2050.
Growers are under tremendous pressure to produce and maintain their own livelihood. A friend, who is a grower, made an additionally thoughtful point. Most consumers are not willing to pay over a certain amount for food. A carton of strawberries, for instance, maxes out at $10 and a carton of eggs at a similar price range. Climate change and weather fluctuations add tremendous stress to what has always been a stressful career.
This is why innovation and technology are both considered a silver lining when it comes to agriculture in the 21st century. The burgeoning agtech sector, once a niche and somewhat looked upon cynically by growers, is increasingly accepted by growers at mid-sized to larger farms and in both the east and west coasts.
AgFunder reported that 2018 was a “record-breaking year” for the agtech industry with $16.9 billion in funding spread across 1,450 investments, many of them bigger deals than previous years. AgTech startups tackled a wide range of areas including vineyard and pest management to AI and blockchain software that addresses food traceability and soil testing kits based on genomic sequencing technology.
Other innovations include autonomous self-driving tractors, robots that can pick fruit and vegetables. The innovations are designed to make farming more productive and efficient.
Every year the headlines containing agtech seem to expand. The Forbes AgTech Summit held in Salinas since 2015 has seen the number of attendees steadily rise. And as an example, some of the biggest players in leafy greens including Taylor Farms, Tanimura & Antle and Driscoll’s are embracing agtech.
Taylor Farms, for example, teamed up with agtech accelerator Plug and Play that connects the company with new innovations. The cherry on top is that a growing number of women who are innovators and entrepreneurs in this space. These women are launching or co-launching agtech tech startups, or in decision making positions. Since 2016 I have been focused on telling the stories of women entrepreneurs in agtech, and have found they share numerous common threads. The majority are young, in their 20s and 30s, and come from a STEM background. Most are fueled with a passion for using their knowledge in science and technology to solve some of the growers’ problems.
And every week there are more female innovators as part of the mix. AgFunder reported earlier this month that Inari, an Indianapolis-based agtech company that focuses on expanding seed diversity, raised $89 million. Inari’s CEO is a woman Ponsi Trivisvavet.
The St. Louis Business Journal announced that Qiaoni Linda Jing was named CEO of Missouri-based agtech company Genective. Jing came to Genective from Bayer Crop Science where she was senior director of global corporate affairs, and previous to that was a director at Monsanto. Ellie Symes, the CEO, and founder of The Bee Corp is in her 20s, has achieved early success by creating a bee-monitoring app including inventory tracking. The Bee Corp was one of the 10 companies chosen as part of this year’s THRIVE cohort, a competitive accelerator program for agtech.
This reality is also part of the silver lining. Traditionally agriculture has been male-dominated sector as has the technology. Nearly 96 percent of producers in the U.S. are men with an average age at 57.5. Moreover, the average age of farmers continues to inch upwards.
When it comes to technology the story has been almost parallel when it comes to the dearth of women leaders especially in venture capital. Just 2.5 percent of all venture-capital-backed startups have an all-female founding team. Only 9 percent of the venture capitalists investing in tech startups are women, according to a recent study by Ian Hathaway a leader researcher at the Center for American Entrepreneurship. Could this change with the continued rise of the agtech sector, and the increased challenges that growers face?
The Chinese word for “crisis” consists of the two characters “danger” and “opportunity.” This sums up the importance of not only bridging innovation and farming but accepting that moving forward they are inseparable in agriculture.
Amy Wu is the CEO and founder of From “Farms to Incubators: Telling the stories of women entrepreneurs in agtech,” which uses multimedia to highlight women leaders and innovators in agtech.
Amy Wu is the CEO and founder of From “Farms to Incubators: Telling the stories of women entrepreneurs in agtech,” which uses multimedia to highlight women leaders and innovators in agtech. Amy is a resident of the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas and continues on its mission of expanding the profiles of women in food, farming, and technology.
Aaron Magenheim, CEO of AgTech Insight states, “Danny has been great to work with over the years as a grower customer so its exciting to have him join our team! He brings years of innovative, hands-on farming experience to our clients and knows how to get things done around the farm!”
Daniel Royer says, “I am extremely excited to be working with AgTech Insight! While I have built a good understanding of systems and relationships across the West Coast, AgTech Insight broadens my network and the scope of the work I do. I am looking forward to seeing where our work takes us and the impact we can have on the projects we work on!” Meet Daniel Royer:
I love to build systems and have spent my career in places that have exposed me to a variety of systems that grow, process and package food. Most of my tangible experience has been in California’s San Joaquin Valley working for and with large growers and processors. During my 15 years of experience, my roles and projects have been focused on improving information workflows and improving process efficiencies in field operations. Integrating digital systems that serve field operations and also create information systems that feed administrative needs is a foundational component to experience.
Through my experience, I have developed modulated processes to evaluate an organization’s current state, prioritize it’s opportunities & gaps, provide strategic plans and support the implementation of those plans. Lastly, I am on a never-ending quest to learn more about how growers are building their own solutions to problems and using solutions that are available on the open market.
To help tell that story I have started a YouTube Channel called the #AgTech_Trek. In each episode, I visit a different grower and take a look at how they are handling fundamental components of their operations like Irrigation, Pest Control & Crop Nutrition. I then break those episodes down into smaller segments I share on me @agtechleader Instagram TV Channel. A project of passion, but with a goal of helping growers find ways of overcoming common struggles.
About AgTech Insight: AgTech Insight is a global leader in full-spectrum agriculture technology consulting services. We have an elite team of subject matter experts around the world, each of whom has a unique skillset to help our clients execute on both short and long-term strategy.
We deliver distinctive consulting and advisory expertise to a variety of companies and large corporates, governments, investors, farmers, industry leaders, and more. Our team tracks over 3,000 digital AgTech companies around the globe and get past the smoke and mirrors to work with real companies to make a huge impact on the world’s food supply. In 2014 we saw the Agriculture and Tech industries starting to collide and were inspired to start AgTech Insight as a bridge to help these two very different industries collaborate. We specialize in sharing deep, on-the-ground experience in the emerging AgTech space that is necessary for success in this evolving industry.
Creating a link between growers and the distributions of their commodities is becoming increasingly difficult. Aaron Magenheim with AgTech Insight based out of Salinas is helping to create a more efficient communication system to bring supply chains together.
Magenheim described a situation last year where Walmart required IBM technology in order to sell leafy greens, but when growers asked how to implement the technology, they could not get a clear answer. “We need to help move this industry forward and have the right people that work together and understand the right direction,” he said.
Another issue Magenheim has seen is the lack of data on failed trials. This is especially a problem in California, where there is a constant push to test new products. Whether it be hiring an analytics team or making sure growers record their ROI (return on investment), Magenheim said organization is the key to moving forward.
With the help of corporate sponsors, new agriculture technology companies are making strides to improve efficiency for growers. California Ag Start, a nonprofit incubator for startup companies in the food and agricultural technology sector, is helping to process these sponsors and support innovations throughout the industry.
“We have access to our corporate sponsors who are also in the Ag Technology space, and we can access some of their science and other professionals as mentors to these startup companies,” said John Selep, President of AgTech Innovation Alliance—the 501(c)3 non-profit behind Ag Start.
One of the ways Ag Start is helping to improve efficiency in the field comes from a company using hyperspectral imagery to check nutrients in soils. “They can actually do almost a continuous scan as a plow is going through the field and develop a continuous map of the nutrient profile within that soil,” Selep explained.
Typically, when a grower tests their soil, they pick two to three spots to sample from and will not receive data on it for a couple of days. According to Selep, hyperspectral scanning will not only help eliminate that wait time, but will provide a much more detailed analysis of the entire field.
“You’d be much more precise about where you put nutrients. Just enough in the places it’s needed as opposed to blanketing the field and pouring on gallons of fertilizer,” Selep said.
Working in the agricultural industry demands integrity and honesty. California Ag Today recently spoke with Aaron Magenheim with AgTech Insight, a global, full-spectrum agricultural and tech consulting firm based in Salinas. They are currently tracking 3,000 digital ag companies around the globe, allowing them to work with real companies to make a huge impact on the world’s food supply.
Magenheim started by selling weather stations 10 years ago when people started asking if he could help aid in soil moisture, imagery, and tracking equipment.
“I got to the point that I wasn’t going to a farmer saying, ‘I’m selling you something.’ I’m going to them saying, ‘Let’s see how we can improve processes and where you’re going,’” he said.
Magenheim’s focus is to help positively impact business for farmers.
Customer satisfaction is the main focus for AgTech Insight.
“If proper customer support is not achieved, then that piece of equipment is in the trash, and you are classified as a company that did not follow through,” Magenheim said. “This would result in an area where you cannot do business anymore.”
Thanks to recent headway in RoboBee research and development, these mechanized pollinators could be headed to a greenhouse near you soon.
Guest Editorial By Tim Jennings, President of Custom Case Group, Maker of DroneHangar
My company has been manufacturing custom cases in the drone and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry for decades. Because we’re involved in so many facets—from the military to the consumer and agricultural segments—my team is often privy to advancements early on. Being a drone enthusiast myself, I try to keep up with the latest developments on my own time, too.
Today, some of the most exciting activity I’m seeing is in the field of agricultural drones, where researchers are making major progress toward mainstreaming RoboBees—tiny drones capable of pollination and other forms of indoor crop maintenance. While open-air agricultural applications, such as crop scouting and pesticide application, are now standard, there’s been little progress in indoor agriculture applications—until now.
New microdrone research in the U.S. and Spain could soon allow RoboBees to run greenhouses and large-scale indoor farms around the globe.
“RoboBees” – The Pollinators of the Future
RoboBees have been on the scene for some time through a collaborative project between teams at Harvard University and Northeastern University. The teams have been working together about 12 years to create “swarms” of tiny worker drones capable of tethered flight. The drones, with wingspans of just 1.2 inches, weigh less than real bees, but, tiny as they are, RoboBees are the result of some intense collaboration among experts in dozens of fields, including neurobiology, computer science and chemical engineering.
The Latest Advancements
Perching & Takeoff. It seems simple: Design a tiny drone that can take off and land easily. However, perching and takeoff have turned out to be among the most critical functions and toughest challenges in RoboBee development. This year, though, the Harvard team may have a breakthrough. The functions of perching and takeoff are critical because they allow the drones to “rest,” protecting them from the mechanical fatigue and power drain of constant flight. The team reported the possible breakthrough in an article in the journal Science titled, “Perching and Takeoff of a Robotic Insect on Overhangs Using Switchable Electrostatic Adhesion,” where they suggest that electrostatic forces allow the small drones to “stick” to different surfaces, such as plant leaves. And the power required to generate those forces is less than what’s needed to keep the RoboBee in flight.
Indoor Environmental Mapping. Large drones that can map and negotiate complex outdoor environments have been around a while; however, small size has been a major limitation in the development of drones capable of indoor mapping. So far, the massive data collection and processing necessary for environmental mapping requires a machine too large for indoor use. But that may be changing.
This year, a research team from the Centre for Automation and Robotics in Spain published a paper titled “Heterogeneous Multi-Robot System for Mapping Environmental Variables of Greenhouses” in the journal Sensors, where they describe a heterogeneous robot team capable of monitoring the environmental variables inside greenhouses. They call the drone team, which includes aerial and ground drones, a “system” that understands and negotiates its surroundings by way of a shared multi-sensor application.
The drones within the system, some of which have cameras for visual monitoring, can also measure factors like soil and air temperature, humidity, luminosity and carbon dioxide concentrations in the greenhouse environment.
It could be a couple more years before RoboBee teams will totally manage indoor crops. But advancements like that above ensure this tech is headed to the mainstream fast. What are your thoughts on drone automation for indoor agriculture? Where do you see this tech bringing the industry in the next 20 years?
Feel free to share on the California Ag Today Facebook page; we’re interested in knowing what you think.
AgTech: Bringing Agriculture and Technology Together for Success
by Emily McKay Johnson, Associate Editor
Aaron Magenheim, an innovative leader in the AgTech movement, helps startups and investment companies understand production farming in California to bridge the disconnect between farmers and evolving technology. Enabling farmers to be on the cutting edge of technology has been key to the success of his company, Ag Tech Insight (ATI).
Magenheim grew up in a family agricultural irrigation business on the Central Coast, Signature Irrigation, and has supported growers his whole life. Four years ago he started Signature AgTech, a stand-alone agriculture technology company, which sells, installs and supports various technologies for growers on the Central Coast and in the Salinas Valley.
The turning point occurred when, according to Magenheim, “I started spending a lot more time in Silicon Valley, and about two years ago I saw a huge disconnect among bright people with great ideas, a lot of money coming into the market and the knowledge that many farmers have absolutely no clue there are solutions 50-100 miles away.”
“That’s when I started AgTech Insight,” Magenheim continued. “I had no clue what we were going to do with it. We have evolved through a number of different situations and built a great team. We started doing meet-ups about a year and a half ago, and we have done nine or ten of them now.”
“We’re at the point now where we are getting collaboration from the city of Salinas and other Monterey Bay economic entities coming together to work with us to build meet-ups and more activity in the area.”
Helping Growers Understand
“As we’ve talked with growers and helped them understand what technology can do to them,” Magenheim explained, “we have also raised money for some companies through grower funding to develop technology and installed in the field. Through that process, we have found growers are really interested in working with and helping early-stage companies. But the value proposition has changed; growers used to have a good value proposition to help an early stage company because they would get use for two or three years of a new technology in their operation before someone else did and profit from that.”
“We’re starting the AgTech Grower’s Alliance (ATGA) —a next generation, ag industry-backed ecosystem to advance the development of AgTech businesses,” Magenheim detailed. “From prototype to market expansion, ATGA, a catalyst for the adoption of technology in agriculture, is basically putting a fund together to allow growers to invest in early stage companies before they’ve put a million dollars into their product, and develop their idea from concept to a scalable point that attracts Silicon Valley [investment],” Magenheim said.
ATGA is growing, even outside of California. “We’re stamping out a satellite in the Turlock area,” Magenheim stated, “and I’m heading to Chicago tomorrow to meet with groups of growers to establish another satellite in that area. This can happen in a lot of different regions—bringing the technology together. It’s really a community effort bringing the growers together,” he said.
Magenheim wants to track equipment and improve collection of in-field data. “I want to be able to go to a field and see when it was disced, when it was listed, when it was watered, when it was planted, when we should harvest, and what that projected harvest is going to be,” he elaborated. “We have a lot of companies working on software and big data and Internet of Things (IOT) and that’s great; but if you can’t get that information from the field, and you don’t have a place to pull the data from, then it doesn’t exist. We really concentrate on a lot of field-level actions.”
“People are coming from schools such as California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and Hartnell College in Salinas, and from all over the country at this point,” Magenheim said, “whether they are educators or students trying to understand where their opportunities are. Growers come to our events to learn and understand where technology is going and how their operations can benefit. Then you have a lot of technology people. We get people from Silicon Valley and from Western Growers Center forInnovation & Technologycoming down to hear what the growers are talking about and looking for.”
Over the past 45 years, Ag Tech Insight (ATI)team members have been integrating the best ideas and advancements available to the agriculture industry, including designing, building, and implementing new tractor equipment; revolutionizing row crop irrigation by incorporating drip tape in Salinas Valley; and starting drip tape recycling programs and hydrostatic harvesting. AgTech has brought dozens of new software solutions to the market, from multiple GPS asset tracking systems to world-leading data collection and remote management. Recently AgTech diversified and significantly improved current monitoring and control systems for some of the largest names in the agricultural industry.