Today, growers are facing pressures from increasing regulatory, labor and water constraints, making innovations that can ease these issues extremely critical. To respond to this growing demand, S2G Ventures and Western Growers brought together five companies encompassing a broad spectrum of emerging technologies to address some of the key pain points in the agricultural industry for the chance to win a $250,000 investment, at the Western Growers Annual Meeting in San Diego on November 9th.
The companies’ areas of focus included the efficacy and consistency of biologics (3Bar Biologics), water availability (Global Water Innovations), emerging techniques to understand crop signals (Vivent), alternatives to increasingly regulated synthetics (Boost Biomes), and labor augmentation technologies (Naio). These five companies presented their products and business models to a panel of judges followed by a round of questions on issues such as product testing and commercial viability. The judges from the Western Growers Board of Directors included Alexandra Allen from Main Street Produce, Frank Maconachy, CEO of Ramsay Highlander and Dominic Muzzi Jr, CEO and COO of Muzzi Family Farms. S2G’s Aaron Rudberg, Audre Kapacinskas and Cristina Rohr also served as judges.
We were blown away by the ingenuity and capabilities of all of the teams and selecting a winner was extremely difficult. All of the companies delivered excellent pitches and demonstrated great potential to create value for growers while enabling them to take on more sustainable agricultural practices. But in the end, 3Bar Biologics, a company that specializes in customized technologies and manufacturing solutions for living agricultural microbiomes, emerged as the audience favorite and won the competition.
Maybe the most valuable and unique aspect of the event was that these companies had the opportunity to present and receive feedback from an audience of growers, packers and shippers--groups who are the target audiences for their products. At S2G we see a great opportunity in better connecting growers with innovation, especially in the early stages, to most effectively address challenges in the industry. Increased interaction between emerging technologies and users on the ground would make these solutions better tailored to the particular needs of industry players. Users might also be more receptive to adopting new technologies if they feel involved in the ideation process.
Thank you to everyone who participated and made this event such a success. We look forward to working on future opportunities to connect outstanding entrepreneurs with agricultural industry players looking for innovative solutions.