Jan 4, 2024
AgShark companies present solutions at Organic Growers Summit
Three AgTech companies that recently competed for venture capital funding at the Western Growers Annual Meeting presented their innovative solutions to age-old problems at the Organic Grower Summit.
With Audre Kapacinskas of S2G Ventures serving as the moderator, representatives from Climate Robotics, Provisions Analytics, and Cultiva presented their respective company’s value proposition at the Meet the AgSharks session during the summit, which was in late November in Monterey, California.
First up was Jason Aramburu, co-founder and CEO of Climate Robotics, a company that specializes in creating and delivering biochar on ag fields. Biochar is a pure form of charcoal (dry brown waste) that has demonstratively improved soil and plant health in literally hundreds of studies. In fact, Aramburu said more than 150 large-scale, independent trials have produced yield increases of 15 percent over a large swath of crops. He added that other studies have shown that a soil treated with biochar increases water retention by 51 percent and also improves nitrogen efficiency.
He said the use of one ton of biochar on an open field will sequester two tons of carbon. He added that biochar has the capability of sequestering as much as two billion tons of carbon annually if its use was maximized.
Aramburu said Climate Robotics’ value proposition is that it has developed a mobile platform to perform the task of turning ag waste into biochar in the field. This greatly improves the cost of the process and makes it economically feasible as it is an expensive proposition to extract ag waste from the field and transport it to a factory that would accomplish the same task.
He added that the USDA currently has a program that will subsidize growers to the tune of $2000 per acre for applying biochar as a way to address climate change.
Climate Robotics currently builds the mobile equipment and offers the equipment and application of biochar as a service. Arumburu said the company’s vision is to one day have a biochar machine on every farm. He said that equates to a massive $60 billion market.
Climate Robotics won the Western Growers AgSharks competition and was presented with a $250,000 equity investment opportunity from S2G Ventures.
Kevin Davies, chief marketing officer of Provisions Analytics, explained that his company focuses on capturing and reporting data related to food safety for any given commodity.
In a nutshell, the company works with ag firms to digitize all their data. Davies said the firm’s software package allows companies to comply with any food safety audits or requests for information in a much quicker and efficient fashion.
During questioning from the audience, Davies admitted that the capturing of the data is currently reliant on internet connectivity, which is often difficult in a rural field environment. But he promised that their software engineers are currently working on an offline mode that can bring data collection to the field and then later integrates that data once the user is back online.
The final AgSharks presenter was Cultiva, represented by CEO Luis Hernandez. He explained that Cultiva has developed Parka, a product designed to enhance the fruit and leaf cuticle, providing season-long protection against environmental stressors, which allows a grower to maximize marketable yield. He also touted a product called Kallor that enhances fruit color.
Hernandez noted, however, that neither product has yet to achieve organic certification. He indicated that the problem is technical and concerns product classification rather than the core elements of the two items. He claims both products are composed of food-grade materials that will qualify for organic certification eventually. He indicated that the company is attempting to work through certification protocols to achieve that classification.
— Organic Produce Network