Customers are willing to pay a premium only on high quality, fresh sliced pears

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Customers are willing to pay a premium only on high quality, fresh sliced pears

Recently, a willingness-to-pay study has shown that consumers are willing to pay up to 20 cents more for high-quality, sliced, fresh packed pears treated with a ripening compound compared to sliced fresh packed pears with no treatment.

The study shows the promise of the slicing segment to the pear industry: Utilization of small-sized pears, and the proposed premium they could bring, has the potential to add up to $100 million to the financial bottom line of the pear industry in the next five years.

The problem with pear consumption

The North American fresh pear industry has cited increasing per capita consumption as its top priority year after year. However, customer habits, biology of the fruit and perhaps the current fruit packing and sale infrastructure stand in the way.

Pears are unique in that they are harvested mature but unripe, and the fruit is then conditioned to ripen. Conditioning is a process in which pears are exposed to cold temperature (less than 1 degree Celsius) for a pre-determined length of time, which is cultivar-specific (Sugar & Basile, 2013). To deter losses during handling, shippers and retailers tend to sell pears without conditioning, resulting in less than desirable fruit and diminishing repeat purchase by consumers.

Pre-ripened or conditioned pears, on the other hand, attract repeat customers, and it is evident in their increased willingness to pay for a consistent quality fruit (Zhang et. al, 2010; Gallardo, 2011; Gallardo et al., 2011).

The early 2000s brought a timely gift for the apple industry in the form of 1-methycyclopropene (1-MCP) or SmartFresh, just as consumers were getting disenchanted with the quality of the fruit on the shelf. 1-MCP binds to the ethylene receptors and makes the fruit insensitive to ethylene, prolonging its storage and improving the shelf life and quality of the fruit.

Not to be left behind, the pear industry, which has not seen any major leaps in consumption over the last several decades, tried using 1-MCP in the hopes of delivering a perfect piece of fruit to the consumer. 1-MCP worked in blocking ripening in pears. In fact, it worked too well. Pears treated with 1-MCP failed to ripen consistently after they were removed from the controlled atmosphere (Argenta et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2015; Chiriboga et al., 2013; Watkins, 2006). No amount of conditioning or exogenous ethylene could rectify the situation.

The quest for a perfect slice of pear

The difficulties of mass producing perfect fresh sliced pears were best summarized by Tony Freytag, chief executive officer of Crunch Pak, a Cashmere, Washington-based operation that controls over 50 percent of the nearly $500 million fresh sliced apple market, during a presentation at the 2013 Washington State Horticultural Association annual conference (Warner, 2013). A juicy, melting pear at 6- to 8-pound firmness range is good for eating but will turn to mush when sliced.

Pear fruit with slightly higher firmness of 8- to 10-pounds has good flavor but bruises heavily when sliced, and fruit with 12- to 14-pound firmness, while great for slicing, has no flavor and dries out quickly. The sweet spot may be at the 10- to 12-pound range, but achieving a 21-day shelf life like apples would not be feasible (Freytag 2013). Anyone who deals with pears knows that it is easy to sort the fruit by size but not by firmness. It seems like an insurmountable issue.

Closer to reality

A technology patented by Washington State University (Dhingra and Hendrickson, 2017) shows increasing potential for the predictable and consistent ripening of the pear fruit treated with 1-MCP. As a first application, we evaluated if we could ripen a 1-MCP treated pear after slicing.

The preliminary results were very encouraging with the 1-MCP treated fruit: slicing and then treating the fruit with the ripening compound resulted in ethylene production at five times that of the 1-MCP treated fruit control. With this result, we partnered with Crunch Pak, and supported by the Washington State Department of Agriculture and USA Pears, we produced and evaluated fresh sliced pears. The shelf life was more than 21 days; however, the ripening compound treatment resulted in the production of sugars and typical pear aroma within three days of packaging.

The willingness-to-pay study that followed, conducted at the Portland Food Innovation Center, showed that it is critical to focus on quality.

Proof is in the slice, so to speak

For any commodity, the real proof that a product has any value is when a customer is willing to put their money where their mouth is. Analysis of the responses obtained from 120 participants in the study revealed that people who liked sliced pears were willing to pay up to 20 cents more per 2-ounce packet for pears treated with the ripening component over untreated pears (Ikiz et al – in review).

Overall, that is about 46 percent more than the retail prices for a 2-ounce bag of sliced apples. The consumer sample who participated in the study demanded healthful and convenient products. Fresh sliced pears have the potential to provide all these advantages and enable a vertical jump in consumption.

The analysis revealed that fresh sliced pears were liked by consumers who prefer locally grown products, buy at conventional grocery stores and consider as important labels indicating certified organic, healthfulness, sustainable agriculture, food safety, non-GMO and eco-labels. In general consumers in our sample who liked fresh packed sliced pears consumed Anjou, Bartlett and Asian pears more frequently compared to the consumers who disliked fresh packed sliced pears. If this study is any indication, any compromise on quality can deal a further death blow for pear consumption.

The key is quality

Time and again, the ability to deliver consistent superior quality triumphs in the market place. Placing a bad product on the shelf has its perils, especially as a younger generation demands convenience and consistent quality. Another misstep can be a slippery slope for the pear industry in particular; the industry has not seen a major upswing in consumer purchases due to lack of novel offerings and competition from other fruit, such as berries and fruit-derived products, for several decades.

Based on preliminary calculations derived from personal communications with some pear industry members, it has been estimated that the value of a single pear fruit at 14 cents increases to $1.14 when sliced. The fresh sliced apple industry is currently valued at about $500 million with exponential increase in demand over the next decade. The projections predict that a high-quality fresh sliced pear market could become a $100 million market in the next five years.

An opportunity to add millions of dollars to the pear industry’s financial bottom line beckons. •

– by Amit Dhingra and Karina Gallardo

The $363,000 study by Amit Dhingra and Karina Gallardo received funding from the Washington State Department of Agriculture and USA Pears, a federal marketing board. Amit Dhingra, Ph.D., is an associate professor of genomics and biotechnology in Washington State University’s Department of Horticulture in Pullman, Washington. Karina Gallardo, Ph.D., is an associate professor and Extension economist at WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center.

References

Sugar, D., and Basile, S. R. (2013). Integrated ethylene and temperature conditioning for induction of ripening capacity in ‘Anjou’ and ‘Comice’ pears. Postharvest Biology and Technology, 83, 9-16. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.postharvbio.2013.03.010
Zhang, H., Gallardo, R. K., McCluskey, J. J., & Kupferman, E. M. (2010). Consumers’ willingness to pay for treatment-induced quality attributes in Anjou pears. Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 35, 105–117.
Gallardo, R. K. (2011). Choice experiments’ findings: A tool for fruit agribusiness managers decision making. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 14, 95–110.
Gallardo, R. K., Kupferman, E., Colonna, A. (2011). Willingness-to-pay for optimal Anjou pear quality. HortScience, 46, 452–456.
Argenta, L.C., Mattheis, J.P., Fan, X., Amarante, CVT. Managing ‘Bartlett’ pear fruit ripening with 1-methylcyclopropene reapplication during cold storage. Postharvest Biology and Technology 2016, 113:125-130.
Wang, Y., Sugar, D. 1-MCP efficacy in extending storage life of ‘Bartlett’ pears is affected by harvest maturity, production elevation, and holding temperature during treatment delay. Postharvest Biology and Technology 2015, 103:1-8.
Chiriboga, M-A., Saladie, M., Gine Bordonaba, J., Recasens, I., Garcia-Mas, J., Larrigaudiere, C.. Effect of cold storage and 1-MCP treatment on ethylene perception, signalling and synthesis: Influence on the development of the evergreen behaviour in ‘Conference’ pears. Postharvest Biology and Technology 2013, 86:212-220.
Watkins C.B. The use of 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP) on fruits and vegetables. Biotechnol Adv 2006, 24:389-409.
Warner, G. Pear slicing is not perfected yet. In Good Fruit Grower. Edited by. Wenatchee, WA: Washington State Fruit Commission; 2014:16. vol 65.
Dhingra, A., Hendrickson C. Control of ripening and senescence in pre-harvest and post-harvest plants and plant materials by manipulating alternative oxidase activity. US Patent 2017, 9,591,847.
Ikiz, D., Gallardo, K., Hewitt, S., Dhingra, A. Assessing Consumers’ Preferences and Willingness to Pay For Novel Sliced Packed Fresh Pears: A Latent Class Approach. 2017 – In review.

UPDATE: Phytelligence Raises $11.95m Towards $16m Series B

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UPDATE: Phytelligence Raises $11.95m Towards $16m Series B

**UPDATE: Added additional Avrio Capital investment of $5 million.**

Agricultural biotechnology and micropropagation company Phytelligence has raised $11.95 million of a potential $16 million Series B. The company announced an initial close of $6.95 million in early July and increased that by $5 million when Avrio Capital committed in late August. The company still expects to reach $16 million total according to an email from Phytelligence, closing in early September.

This round was led by Cowles Company, a family-owned investor out of Spokane, WA with investments in media, clean tech, and some agriculture, among other areas. Also participating in the round was WRF Capital, the investing arm of the Washington Research Foundation.

“The decision to invest in Phytelligence was an easy one to make once we saw the tremendous gap between the current nursery capabilities and the needs of the modern grower,” said Steve Rector, CFO of Cowles Company.

Phytelligence’s patented and trademarked MULTIPHY process enables apples, cherries, peaches, pears, grapes, hops, berries and nuts to grow five times faster with fewer inputs using a non-soil, nutrient-dense growing medium. This speeds up the process for growers to get new, designer fruit varieties like Honeycrisp apples and cotton candy grapes to market as well as alleviating age-old industry bottlenecks. Growers traditionally had to wait just to be able to obtain rootstock for new crops.

Now, Phytelligence provides genetically-verified and virus-free trees and rootstock to farmers in a sector long-plagued by a lack of transparency. CEO Ken Hunt says that in the past, 10% of apple trees sold were mislabeled as to their type.

Phytelligence technology spun out out of Washington State University as founder and CSO Professor Amit Dhingra was woking with local Washington farmers to develop new apple varieties using micropropagation. He founded Phytelligence when the demand from farmers became too great to meet in an academic setting. Now the company offers tissue culture and genetic testing for trees already in the field, as well as selling rootstock and plants.

Phytelligence will use the new funds to further expand its propagation capacity including taking on more greenhouse space.

“We’re also spending a tremendous amount of time and money to constantly improve the process — looking at robotics; looking at the ability to do grafting in a tissue culture lab with a younger plant to speed the process,” said CEO Ken Hunt, who joined the company in 2016.

In addition to being the only genetically-verified rootstock provider, Phytelligence is also always looking for the next great apple variety, but Hunt says despite Phytelligence’s quick pace for a tree-grower, these things cannot be rushed.

“Nature is only so fast. I feel like we’ve got the tools and the ability to make very good breeding selections that will make the discovery of the next Honeycrisp really fast. You just gotta sit there and wait for the plants to grow.” Even after a winning variety is discovered, much more breeding and cultivation is required to reach critical mass to bring the new variety to market. Hunt says that the fastest possible timeline for a new apple variety is seven to 10 years.

Since founding in 2012, the company has grown to around 70 employees with greenhouse space in Washington and a tissue culture lab in Oregon. Dhingra also still runs an R&D lab at Washington State University and Phytelligence has right of first refusal to any new tech developed there.

Uniquely, much of the company’s previous funding came from the industry including various farming groups along with four leading nurseries.

“When I started the company, I was grateful that the industry was the first to come to the table with financial support,” Dhingra told AgFunderNews in 2016. “Phytelligence came from the industry as growers defined what their problems were and through their support and guidance we were able not only to develop solutions for them but to test them and improve on them. In many ways, this is the true definition of a democratic process: from the industry, by the industry and for the industry!”

Phytelligence has raised $12.6 million total to date.

For The Love Of Huckleberries: August Brings Out Hunters Of Elusive Fruit

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For The Love Of Huckleberries: August Brings Out Hunters Of Elusive Fruit

Starting in late summer, national forests in Northwestern states like Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho fill with eager berry hunters hoping to find a cache of dark maroon huckleberries. It’s common for demand to exceed supply, leading to conflicts between Native Americans who have certain reserved picking areas, commercial pickers, and families hoping to continue their summer traditions.

Related to both blueberries and cranberries, the fruit is so juicy that it has to be dried, processed, or eaten soon after picking – which makes huckleberry season feel especially fleeting, when it often only lasts from August through September. They were once a major food for local Native Americans like the Yakama, who helped huckleberry crops flourish through an annual burning at the picking grounds, and even sometimes moved to stay close to prime picking locations.

Throughout history, finding and picking huckleberries has been hard work, yet for people who love them, the effort is worth it.

Of all the products that can be foraged in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, huckleberries get the most attention, says forester Chris Starling.

“You’re out there for a good reason other than just to get to a certain point,” Starling says. “It’s a relaxing mission — and a tasty one.” The berries themselves taste like a tart blueberry that will stain pickers fingers and clothes with their red flesh.

Though many families have been huckleberry hunting for years, Starling and other forest employees regularly educate newcomers on where the best huckleberry patches might be, how to pick them, and — importantly — which areas to avoid.

A Native American woman picks huckleberries and puts them in a basket, circa 1900. The berries historically have been an important food source for tribes of the Northwest.

Department of Agriculture/Forest Service

Since 1932, an area of the Sawtooth Berry Fields has been reserved for use by Native Americans, thanks to an agreement between Yakama Indian Chief William Yallup and the Gifford Pinchot Forest supervisor. Making sure huckleberry pickers follow best practices is important for the tribes — and for next year’s huckleberry foragers, too. Most forests require a permit and limit the amount of berries a person can take home. Some rules also specify that berries be picked by hand, since equipment like berry rakes can damage the plants.

To continue having enough berries to go around, the forest management conducts periodical environmental assessments to find out how many huckleberries can be picked sustainably, says Joe Gates, the vegetation program manager for Gifford. But thanks to the popularity of huckleberries, Gates explains, “conflict is prevalent.”

A love of huckleberries — combined with their scarcity — has created a decades-long effort to produce the berry commercially. In the wild, the berries are hearty and were among the plants to survive the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980. A University of Idaho researcher named Dan Barney spent over two decades attempting to create a domesticated huckleberry that would reliably produce delicious fruit at home. He retired without accomplishing his mission. People started trying to domesticate the blueberry in 1906, Barney told The Oregonian before his retirement. “So we’re behind on the development of a domesticated huckleberry crop. But call me back in 100 years and we’ll be in really good shape.”

Joe Culbreth relied on Barney’s expertise to help him start a huckleberry crop at his Berry & Nut Farm. Culbreth loves huckleberries and has been picking them for decades. but reached an age where it was hard to get into the forest reliably to forage for himself.

“I figured in my old days I could just set [up] my wheelchair and roll down the row and pick huckleberries,” he says. He planted hundreds of huckleberries and proceeded to wait — for a very long time. “On the seventh year I got my first berries, and not many people are going to plant something and see no return for seven years,” he says.

All this effort doesn’t exactly make the huckleberry ripe for commercial production. Yet it would be a jackpot for any horticulturist that managed it — in the wild, there simply aren’t enough berries to go around.

“Domesticating the wild huckleberry is impossible,” says Amit Dhingra, associate professor in the horticulture department at Washington State University. “They have been established in the wild in certain conditions in the forest, and their genetics are suited specifically for that purpose.”

Instead, Dhingra is heading an effort to make a totally new berry, with some of the qualities that makes the huckleberry so revered. The goal is to create a berry that can be grown in multiple environments — not just shaded areas of high elevations, like the huckleberry. Instead, berry production would be a bit more like the blueberry, which grows in bunches on the plant rather than single flowers like the huckleberry. The berry also has to be easy to store and transport and, of course, taste as good as a huckleberry.

“The flavor of the huckleberry is legendary,” Dhingra says. The project began in 2013, so huckleberry lovers shouldn’t start checking the grocery stores just yet. These not-huckleberry hybrids have only just started to produce.

Until then, foragers will have to keep waiting until August to drive up to the mountains and pick huckleberries for themselves. And Culbreth will continue to try bringing his dreams of a home-grown huckleberry to life.

When asked why huckleberries are worth all this trouble, Culbreth laughed. “I don’t know,” he says. “But once you’ve eaten huckleberries in pancakes or cakes, you’re hooked.”

Phytelligence Named A Seattle Business Magazine Tech Impact Award Finalist

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Phytelligence, an agricultural biotechnology company revolutionizing the way food crops, was recently named a finalist for the Seattle Business Magazine 2017 Tech Impact Awards in the Emerging Technology category.

Phytelligence was chosen out of a field of over 100 Pacific Northwest companies vying for the honor, which will be presented in real-time at the September 26th awards banquet held at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.

The Tech Impact Awards recognize companies headquartered in Washington State that are using technology to have a significant impact on business, industry or society. Companies will be honored in 14 categories: Enterprise, Cloud/Big Data, IT Services/Consulting, Emerging Tech, Design/Interface, Mobile, Education, Consumer/Retail, Gaming/Entertainment, Security, Marketing/Analytics, Software as a Service, and Other.

Companies honored at this year’s 2017 Tech Impact Awards will include:

Algorithmia
Blue Origin
Echodyne
F5 Networks
FLEXE
Kymeta Corporation
Medbridge
Nintex
Offer Up
Outreach
Phytelligence
Qumulo
Spaceflight Industries
Tempered Networks
Textio
VICIS
Xevo
Zonar Systems

All entries were considered by the 3rd-party judging panel resulting in 18 category finalists that will be honored at the awards banquet and featured in the October issue of Seattle Business magazine.

About Phytelligence

Phytelligence is an agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing food crops. Utilizing its proprietary growing techniques to provide superior quality crops, Phytelligence enables higher grower profit by increasing speed to harvest while reducing input costs. Phytelligence provides additional value to food crop growers and plant breeders through the application of advanced genetics enabling delivery of accurate plants, disease screening, plant repository services, securing of intellectual property, and the ability to co-develop new varieties of food crops. In addition, Phytelligence has a growing pipeline of biological and compound solutions aimed at improving returns throughout the food crop value chain.

Phytelligence was founded in 2012 by Dr. Amit Dhingra, Associate Professor of Horticulture Genomics and Biotechnology Research laboratory at Washington State University.  Phytelligence is headquartered in Seattle with locations in Pullman, Washington and Portland, Oregon. In 2016, Phytelligence expanded their footprint to include an 8-acre Seattle-based greenhouse space and a Portland-based tissue culture production facility. Currently, Phytelligence has 70 employees and continues to grow.

Burien startup Phytelligence avoids getting dirty with its tree-growing technology

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Trees generally grow in soil, but a Burien biotech startup thinks they just might grow better in gel. Phytelligence has developed a way for trees, most commonly fruit trees, to grow during their early days in a nutrient-rich gel. It provides a sterile environment to cut down on viruses that might attack the plant and to make sure that all trees of one variety are uniform.Orchards can be a risky business that

Orchards can be a risky business that take a long time to reach fruition — often taking 10 years, said Phytelligence CEO Ken Hunt. Trees grown in soil and sold to farmers can also become damaged during transplanting.Phytelligence’s technology aims to cut down on

Phytelligence’s technology aims to cut down on tree-mortality rates and make it easier for farmers to grow more plants, more quickly in gel with custom nutrients for each plant variety.

The process was first created at Washington State University by associate professor Amit Dhingra and spun out into a company nearly six years ago. Dhingra realized that previous gel-based technologies were based on a recipe for tobacco plants. He set about customizing the tissue culture gels for other types of plants.

The startup recently raised $6.9 million from investors, bringing its total funding to $12.6 million. Its most recent funding round was led by Cowles Co. of Spokane, a family-owned investment group that owns The Spokesman-Review and invests in growing businesses. The Washington Research Foundation also invested in Phytelligence’s round.

Phytelligence, which has 70 employees, now works with about 30 customers and can grow up to 29 million plants every year in its facility in Tigard, Ore. The startup grows the plants for between 12 and 24 months and then sells them to farmers — most commonly as rootstock, or an underground stem.

Phytelligence charges about $1.95 for each rootstock, higher than the going rate of about $1.70, but Hunt said the results pay off in more developed and less diseased trees.

Article Link: http://www.seattletimes.com/business/technology/burien-startup-phytelligence-avoids-getting-dirty-with-its-tree-growing-technology/

Seattle Week in Review: MSFT Sales Reorg, UW, Phytelligence, & More

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Agtech startup Phytelligence, a Washington State University spinout using genetic analysis and sterile growing environments to improve the quality and volume of fruit tree rootstocks and provide other services to farmers, has raised $6.95 million in the first closing of a Series B funding round.

Spokane, WA-based Cowles Company led the investment, with participation from WRF Capital. The company says the funding round could grow to $16 million total, later this summer.

The funding will support expanded production, and “research for developing, owning, and commercializing new rootstock and varieties of apples, cherries, pears, and grapes to further meet the needs of growers and consumers,” according to a news release.

The company, founded in 2012 by WSU associate professor of horticulture genomics and biotechnology Amit Dhingra, is headquartered in the Seattle area, where it has an 8-acre greenhouse, with research and development offices in Pullman, WA, and Portland, OR, where it operates a tissue-culture production facility. The company has 70 employees.

Its earlier financial backers include angel investors from Keiretsu Forum Northwestand Element 8, though the majority of the company’s initial funding round came from individual investors from the Northwest tree fruit industry.

Article: http://www.xconomy.com/seattle/2017/07/07/seattle-week-in-review-msft-sales-reorg-uw-phytelligence-more/

Phytelligence Raises $6.95m Towards $16m Series B

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Phytelligence Raises $6.95m Towards $16m Series B

Agricultural biotechnology and micropropagation company Phytelligence has raised $6.95 million of a potential $16 million Series B closing August 4.

This round was led by Cowles Company, a family-owned investor out of Spokane, WA with investments in media, clean tech, and some agriculture, among other areas. Also participating in the round was WRF Capital, the investing arm of the Washington Research Foundation.

“The decision to invest in Phytelligence was an easy one to make once we saw the tremendous gap between the current nursery capabilities and the needs of the modern grower,” said Steve Rector, CFO of Cowles Company.

Phytelligence’s patented and trademarked MULTIPHY process enables apples, cherries, peaches, pears, grapes, hops, berries and nuts to grow five times faster with fewer inputs using a non-soil, nutrient-dense growing medium. This speeds up the process for growers to get new, designer fruit varieties like Honeycrisp apples and cotton candy grapes to market as well as alleviating age-old industry bottlenecks. Growers traditionally had to wait just to be able to obtain rootstock for new crops.

Now, Phytelligence provides genetically-verified and virus-free trees and rootstock to farmers in a sector long-plagued by a lack of transparency. CEO Ken Hunt says that in the past, 10% of apple trees sold were mislabeled as to their type.

Phytelligence technology spun out out of Washington State University as founder and CSO Professor Amit Dhingra was woking with local Washington farmers to develop new apple varieties using micropropagation. He founded Phytelligence when the demand from farmers became too great to meet in an academic setting. Now the company offers tissue culture and genetic testing for trees already in the field, as well as selling rootstock and plants.

Phytelligence will use the new funds to further expand its propagation capacity including taking on more greenhouse space.

“We’re also spending a tremendous amount of time and money to constantly improve the process — looking at robotics; looking at the ability to do grafting in a tissue culture lab with a younger plant to speed the process,” said CEO Ken Hunt, who joined the company in 2016.

In addition to being the only genetically-verified rootstock provider, Phytelligence is also always looking for the next great apple variety, but Hunt says despite Phytelligence’s quick pace for a tree-grower, these things cannot be rushed.

“Nature is only so fast. I feel like we’ve got the tools and the ability to make very good breeding selections that will make the discovery of the next Honeycrisp really fast. You just gotta sit there and wait for the plants to grow.” Even after a winning variety is discovered, much more breeding and cultivation is required to reach critical mass to bring the new variety to market. Hunt says that the fastest possible timeline for a new apple variety is seven to 10 years.

Since founding in 2012, the company has grown to around 70 employees with greenhouse space in Washington and a tissue culture lab in Oregon. Dhingra also still runs an R&D lab at Washington State University and Phytelligence has right of first refusal to any new tech developed there.

Uniquely, much of the company’s previous funding came from the industry including various farming groups along with four leading nurseries.

“When I started the company, I was grateful that the industry was the first to come to the table with financial support,” Dhingra told AgFunderNews in 2016. “Phytelligence came from the industry as growers defined what their problems were and through their support and guidance we were able not only to develop solutions for them but to test them and improve on them. In many ways, this is the true definition of a democratic process: from the industry, by the industry and for the industry!”

Phytelligence has raised $12.6 million total to date.

Agriculture startup raises $7M to grow apples, cherries, and nuts in high-tech gel

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Phytelligence is raising more cash to further develop its technology that helps grow food crops like apples, cherries, hops, and nuts more effectively.

The Seattle startup just closed on $6.95 million of a larger Series B round that could total $16 million. Cowles Company led the investment, which included participation from WRF Capital. Total funding in the 70-person company is $12.6 million.

Founded in 2012 out of Washington State University, Phytelligence has developed proprietary, non-GMO technology to grow crops at a faster clip and with a lower mortality rate. The company has delivered more than one million plants to growers and nurseries around the country.

“The Phytelligence growing process means that plants are healthier, virus-free and genetically confirmed before we ship,” the company notes on its website. “Plants are grown in greenhouses and delivered in Ellie pots meaning the root system is never destroyed, eliminating the risk of transfer shock.”

Phytelligence grows its trees through a proprietary tissue culture process called MultiPHY. The four-step process grows trees in a custom gel blend rather than traditional soil; this method provides all necessary nutrients without the need for water, which saves time and money for growers. The controlled environment also allows the plants to grow more quickly.

 

Via Phytelligence.

 

The fresh funding will also go toward research for developing and commercializing new crop varieties of apples, cherries, pears, and grapes.

“This influx of funding gives us the capital needed to continue our rapid expansion to meet the needs of growers domestically and internationally,” Phytelligence CEO Ken Hunt said in a statement. “The success of our company validates the demand for our proprietary technology and the need for a change in the current nursery system. We’re looking forward to expanding our footprint and providing growers with the highest quality, true-to-type plant material and compound solutions for agronomic and consumer benefit.”

Hunt joined the company in late 2015; COO Tyler Spurgeon and CRO Tim O’Brien were also hired to the executive team at the time. Since then, Phytelligence has grown its workforce from 12 to 70 full-timers while opening an 8-acre greenhouse in Burien, Wash., and a tissue culture lab in Portland. It also has a research and development lab in Pullman, Wash. The company was founded in 2012 by Dr. Amit Dhingra, an associate professor of Horticulture Genomics and Biotechnology Research at Washington State University.

Phytelligence Secures $6.95M in New Funding, Opens Door For Total Series B Of $16M by August 2017

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PHYTELLIGENCE SECURES $6.95M IN NEW FUNDING, OPENS DOOR FOR TOTAL SERIES B ROUND OF $16M BY AUGUST 2017

Round Led by Cowles Company Based in Spokane, Washington

SEATTLE, Wash. – July 5, 2017 Phytelligence, an agricultural biotechnology company revolutionizing the way food crops are grown, today announced the first closing of $6.95 million dollars of a total potential $16 million dollar Series B funding round. The first closing was led by Cowles Company, based in Spokane, Washington and followed by further investment from WRF Capital.

The initial $6.95 million will provide funding for expanded plant production that utilizes the proprietary Phytelligence MultiPHY™ technology, while also funding research for developing, owning, and commercializing new rootstock and varieties of apples, cherries, pears, and grapes to further meet the needs of growers and consumers. The company has experienced exponential growth since the new management team came together in late 2015, increasing employee count from 12 to 70 full-time employees, as well as securing greenhouse space in Burien, Washington and establishing a fully-functioning tissue culture lab based in Portland, Oregon. The company also maintains its own research and development lab in Pullman, Washington where it discovers grower-focused technologies while also having the right of first refusal for technologies developed in the Dhingra Lab at Washington State University.

“The growth and milestone achievements of Phytelligence over the past few years have been exciting,” said Phytelligence CEO, Ken Hunt. “This influx of funding gives us the capital needed to continue our rapid expansion to meet the needs of growers domestically and internationally. The success of our company validates the demand for our proprietary technology and the need for a change in the current nursery system. We’re looking forward to expanding our footprint and providing growers with the highest quality, true-to-type plant material and compound solutions for agronomic and consumer benefit.”

“The decision to invest in Phytelligence was an easy one to make once we saw the tremendous gap between the current nursery capabilities and the needs of the modern grower,” stated Steve Rector, CFO of Cowles Company. “The current system of providing plants to growers is antiquated and simply can’t keep up with the changing customer preferences the growers are trying to satisfy. Phytelligence has the technology, the capacity and the expertise needed to completely revolutionize the food crop industry. We look forward to being a part of that mission.”

The initial funding close of $6.95 million signals the availability of an additional $9 million in funding to be secured by August 4, 2017. The total round maximum of $16 million would signify the largest round for the company, who raised a smaller Series A in 2015.

 

About Phytelligence

Phytelligence is an agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing food crops. Utilizing its proprietary growing techniques to provide superior quality crops, Phytelligence enables higher grower profit by increasing speed to harvest while reducing input costs. Phytelligence provides additional value to food crop growers and plant breeders through the application of advanced genetics enabling delivery of accurate plants, disease screening, plant repository services, securing of intellectual property, and the ability to co-develop new varieties of food crops. In addition, Phytelligence has a growing pipeline of biological and compound solutions aimed at improving returns throughout the food crop value chain.

Phytelligence was founded in 2012 by Dr. Amit Dhingra, Associate Professor of Horticulture Genomics and Biotechnology Research laboratory at Washington State University.  Phytelligence is headquartered in Seattle with locations in Pullman, Washington and Portland, Oregon. In 2016, Phytelligence expanded their footprint to include an 8-acre Seattle-based greenhouse space and a Portland-based tissue culture production facility. Currently, Phytelligence has 70 employees and continues to grow.

About Cowles Company

Cowles Company is a fourth generation family-owned enterprise that operates a portfolio of legacy companies and seeks to invest in high potential growth businesses for the long-term benefit of shareholders, customers, employees and the communities in which it operates.

For more information: www.cowlescompany.com

About WRF Capital

WRF Capital is the Washington Research Foundation’s (WRF) venture investment arm. It has invested in more than 70 local life sciences, physical sciences and information sciences startups since 1995 and proceeds support WRF’s grant programs. The Foundation is recognized as one of the foremost technology transfer and grant-making organizations in the nation and has returned more than $500 million to the state’s research institutions through gifts and licensing disbursements.

For additional information, please visit: http://wrfcapital.com

 

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Contact:

Ashley Mann

Director of Marketing and PR for Phytelligence

ashleymann@phytelligence.com

(206) 300-9891

Phytelligence Inks Strategic Partnership With The Association For The Development Of Hop Agronomy

By | News, Partnerships | No Comments

BURIEN, Wash. – May 25, 2017 – PRLog — Phytelligence, an agricultural biotechnology company revolutionizing the way food crops are grown, today announced a strategic partnership with the Association for the Development of Hop Agronomy (ADHA). The partnership allows the ADHA to utilize Phytelligence’s repository program to protect newly-developed hop varieties in a sterile and safe environment.  Phytelligence’s proprietary micropropagation technology, MultiPHY™ will be leveraged in the relationship to rapidly propagate large quantities of confirmed true to type, virus free hop plants.

The Association for the Development of Hop Agronomy is comprised of hop growers in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho who are dedicated to reinventing hop-growing practices with a goal of developing varieties and management practices that are durable, broadly adapted, and sustainable. ADHA invests in research and development of new hop production techniques and varieties that can be used in both standard and low trellis production, much like fruit trees or grapes currently. Phytelligence will assist the ADHA in their mission to promote true to type high-quality hop varieties by utilizing their virus screening, repository, and rapid propagation capabilities. The Phytelligence MultiPHY™ process also aids the ADHA in achieving their goal of environmental sustainability by reducing the amount of water used in the growth-to-delivery process.

“The ability to provide high-quality disease free planting material to our growers is of utmost importance to us and in line with our mission. We want brewers who purchase these hops to know that they were developed and grown for them with the highest possible standards. Phytelligence has the knowledge and technology we need to further our goal of improving the hop industry in the Pacific Northwest,” said Megan Twomey, brand manager and agronomist for the Association for the Development of Hop Agronomy. “Their repository program is especially appealing because they have the ability to virus screen our plant material and then keep it in a certifiably safe, sterile environment ready for propagation at a moment’s notice. This gives us the ability to make ADHA plant material available to growers quickly while adhering to our product traceability objectives. We’re looking forward to a successful relationship.”

“The ADHA is an extremely progressive organization,” said Phytelligence CEO, Ken Hunt. “They’re looking to make a big impact in the hop industry by changing the way hops are currently grown to better suit the environment and be more effective for growers. Their progressive nature combined with our technical knowledge, repository program, virus screening capabilities and MultiPHY™ process will create tremendous value for hop growers in our industry.”

Key components of the partnership include:

–  Safekeeping of dwarf varieties with the Phytelligence repository program

–  Virus screening of plant material to ensure strong, healthy plants

–  Rapid propagation of chosen dwarf hop vines using the Phytelligence MultiPHY™ process

About the Association for the Development of Hop Agronomy

The Association for the Development of Hop Agronomy is a group dedicated to reinventing growing practices to adapt to the world in which we live. Greater awareness of our constantly changing environment and our impact upon it necessitates more responsible stewardship of our land. We believe the legacy left behind when we are done farming should not be negative. The ADHA is dedicated to making a difference. We are working to find solutions to the challenges presented to farmers by the global nature of our world in the 21st century.

About Phytelligence

Phytelligence (http://www.phytelligence.com) is an agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing food crops. Utilizing its proprietary growing techniques to provide superior quality crops, Phytelligence enables higher grower profit by increasing speed to harvest while reducing input costs. Phytelligence provides additional value to food crop growers and plant breeders through the application of advanced genetics enabling delivery of accurate plants, disease screening, plant repository services, securing of intellectual property, and the ability to co-develop new varieties of food crops. In addition, Phytelligence has a growing pipeline of biological and compound solutions aimed at improving returns throughout the food crop value chain.

Phytelligence was founded in 2012 by Dr. Amit Dhingra, Associate Professor of Horticulture Genomics and Biotechnology Research laboratory at Washington State University.    Phytelligence is headquartered in Seattle with locations in Pullman, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  In 2016, Phytelligence expanded their footprint to include an 8-acre Seattle-based greenhouse space and a Portland-based tissue culture production facility. Currently, Phytelligence has 67 employees and continues to grow.