Ag Innovation Showcase Blog

Innovation on the Farm: Building an Agricultural Technology Ecosystem around Sacramento

By January 16, 2017 Ag Issues

by Claire Kinlaw

John Selep, a Larta Principal Advisor for USDA commercialization assistance programs, in recent conversation with Larta, reflected on his enthusiasm and optimism for the continued growth of an agricultural innovation ecosystem in the Sacramento, California region.  John’s personal story combines a family connection to growing food – his family had a small Midwest orchard where they grew their own produce – with a career in technology.  John’s dad grew up around farms but like many of his generation he became an engineer following WWII.  John has pleasant memories of fall days spent with his siblings harvesting, quartering, coring, grinding, and jarring applesauce and pears along with the aroma of cinnamon from bubbling applesauce.  Fast forward more than 30 years later after a career as an engineer in Bell Labs and HP that brought John to the Sacramento region, and John is engaged in bringing together the pieces to foster commercialization of agricultural innovations in his area.

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Indoor Ag meets the democratization of slow food

By December 20, 2016 Ag Issues

Tender Greens

By  | December 16th, 2016

One of the benefits of running a national ag forum is you get to meet a host of innovative people from every segment of the food supply chain.

Larta’s GAIN (Global Ag Innovation Network) event in October 2016 in Los Angeles at urban indoor ag company, Local Roots, focused on a panel of urban ag experts, including Local Roots CEO, Eric Ellestad, which discussed the benefits and challenges of indoor farming.

Attending that event was Erik Oberholtzer, CEO of restaurant chain, Tender Greens. His company is a customer of Local Roots, which consistently supplies his restaurants fresh greens to his menu in any season.

I had a chance to talk to Erik Oberholtzer to discuss how indoor farming is enabling a disruption in the “slow food” restaurant ingredients supply chain.

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The Case for Indoor Ag

By December 7, 2016 Ag Issues

Urban agriculture covers a multitude of concerns and interests. It spans everything from a focus on indoor high tech automation (systems, components etc.) to precision farming (the use of technology to drive the more precise use of inputs and the use of data to drive planning) to community activism (the provision of locally-sourced and grown food, under the control of local communities, able to tap into the more accessible ways to grow food).

Fertile Ground

In October, Larta, under its Global Ag Innovation Network (GAIN) forum offering, brought together a diverse crowd in Los Angeles to learn, discuss and network around the topic of “LA Urban Farming.” The group included businesses, not for profit organizations, and interested members of the otherwise unaffiliated public. We explored the breadth of urban agriculture; we identified trends, we pointed to specific local and global impact, we looked at examples of specific technologies and innovators in the field. We met, we ate, we drank, we networked at the urban agriculture space of a pioneering local company, Local Roots.

We also featured a panel of indoor agriculture experts to lead off the discussion. Following the panel, we opened it up to members of the community involved in agriculture, both indoor and otherwise. This “open mic” session was intended to connect them to the local community and to enable advocacy on behalf of their mission and goals. As is our trademark, Larta is at the center of creating community among ag innovators, advocacy groups and investors.

The panel was led by:

  • Entrepreneur, Eric Ellestad, Founder and CEO Local Roots
  • Automation technology provider, Kelley Nicholson, Autogrow US Sales Lead
  • Investor, Nicola Kerslake, founder of Newbean Capital and Indoor Ag-Con

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Versatile field phenotyping developed to benefit farmers

By November 11, 2016 Companies

Researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science, are leveraging expertise in crop phenotyping with the development of the PheNode, a ‘smart’, farm-ready, solar-powered environmental sensor and phenotyping station for crops.

Read the article here.

Sacramento ag tech company Bitwater Farms opens R&D center in North Carolina

By November 11, 2016 Companies

Sacramento agricultural technology company Bitwater Farms Inc. and Ag Showcase 2016 alumni is building out a research and development center in North Carolina.

The two-year-old company has developed technology to help farmers raise crickets as animal feed. Bitwater sets up its farmer clients with modular cricket habitats.

Read the article here.