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

 

###

 

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

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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.

Phytelligence Partners with Cornell to Grow Geneva Rootstocks

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Phytelligence has announced a collaboration with Cornell University to test, store and grow new and existing commercial Geneva rootstock varieties for future production. The agreement allows Phytelligence to increase the speed to market of newly developed apple rootstock, while also enabling large-scale, rapid production of enough quality rootstock to fulfill the needs of all apple growers.     

For more than 125 years, Cornell has developed cutting-edge technologies essential to accelerating the growth of the agricultural industry. From developing safe and nutritious foods to pioneering means to preserve the environment, Cornell serves agricultural producers, food businesses and farm families throughout the industry. Among the most recognized of their agricultural contributions is the creation of the many Geneva apple rootstock varieties, widely regarded as the leading rootstock varieties in the apple industry.

Phytelligence MultiPHY™ Technology Set To Rapidly Expand EverCrisp™ Availability For Growers

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SEATTLE – May 9, 2017 – PRLog — Phytelligence (http://www.phytelligence.com), an agricultural biotechnology company revolutionizing the way food crops are grown, today announced their partnership with the Midwest Apple Improvement Association (MAIA) – the entity responsible for managing and marketing the MAIA 1 variety, which produces a unique apple branded the EverCrisp™. The partnership allows Phytelligence to propagate and sell MAIA 1 trees, quickly increasing the amount of the highly desired EverCrisp™ apple in the market and getting more plant material into the hands of awaiting growers. With Phytelligence’s proprietary MultiPHY™ technology, the company can quickly replenish the depleted MAIA 1 supply with virus clean, true-to-type plants ready for delivery in Spring of 2019.

By partnering with Phytelligence, the Midwest Apple Improvement Association is able to quickly fill grower demand by utilizing the 10-40x multiplication rates made possible with the Phytelligence MultiPHY™ technology. The MultiPHY™ process gives growers, universities, grower associations and breeders the ability to rapidly gain access to the latest varieties, solving the variety shortage while also enabling them to generate a greater profit by quickly filling all grower requests while the demand is high.

“We are thrilled that Phytelligence is helping meet unmet demand for the MAIA 1 trees,” said Bill Dodd, President of the Midwest Apple Improvement Association. “With the technology available today, growers should receive the immediate benefit of new varieties. There is no reason for new varieties to be rationed due to legacy growing processes. To help growers remain competitive with the latest varieties we need to utilize every technical advantage to bring new and improved apples to consumers. Phytelligence is at the forefront of the latest agricultural technology and we’re proud to partner with them.”

“We’re at the very beginning stages of seeing widespread, rapid propagation of licensed and club varieties with our MultiPHY™ technology,” said Phytelligence CEO, Ken Hunt. “We’re solving a very real need to quickly supply growers with these high-demand varieties and only Phytelligence can produce the high volumes needed to meet the increasing demand. With Phytelligence, there are no more industry “mix-ups” and our mortality rate is the lowest in the market. Our growers get vigorous, true-to-type plants with full root systems that grow aggressively when planted.”

Most desirable EverCrisp™ apple characteristics include:
–       Sweet flavor
–       Texture and mouth feel similar to Honeycrisp
–       Resembled Fuji in shape and coloring
–       Better storability
–       Greater apple density

The trademarked MAIA 1 variety is praised for its hardiness when grown in a diverse group of locations across the United State and in Europe, and the resulting apple has drawn Honeycrisp taste comparisons with its robust flavor profile. The variety is a cross between the Fuji and the Honeycrisp; melding the sweet, crisp texture of the Honeycrisp with the storability and outward appearance of a Fuji.

Growers interested in sourcing MAIA 1 trees from Phytelligence should contact Paul Nelson at (509) 860-2400 or paulnelson@phytelligence.com.

Phytelligence Welcomes Director Of Global Sales, Berries And Nuts; Adds Matt Shanks To Growing Team

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SEATTLEJan. 12, 2017PRLog — Phytelligence, the leader in agricultural technology revolutionizing food crops, has announced the addition of Matt Shanks as Director of Global Sales and Business Development to the growing company roster. Shanks comes to Phytelligence from Oro Agri where he was the Pacific Northwest Area Manager and honed his experience by working one-on-one with some of the largest growers and distributors in the industry.  Prior to that, he owned his own agricultural business for 17 years that extended into Mexico, Chile and China.

As Director of Global Sales, Shanks will help Phytelligence expand their clean, true-to-type plant materials to the rapidly growing berry and nut markets both locally and internationally. Shanks’ background in sales within the agriculture industry, and specifically within the berry industry, is a great match for the growing Phytelligence.

“I joined Phytelligence because I’ve worked with growers my entire career and I’ve seen first hand the issues they have obtaining quality plant material,” said Shanks. “The nursery industry has been notoriously stagnant and I believe Phytelligence is doing the growers a great service by using technology to provide stronger plants, on a quicker timeline. I’m looking forward to bringing Phytelligence plants to berry and nut growers around the globe.”

Phytelligence is based in Seattle, Washington with a research and development lab in Pullman, Washington and a tissue culture lab in Portland, Oregon. Over the last year, Phytelligence has grown their workforce to over 50 full-time employees and expanded their footprint to accommodate over 20 million plants in tissue culture at their Portland location. With their official expansion into the berry and nut markets, Phytelligence will provide clean, true-to-type plant materials across a wide range of varieties including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, hazelnuts and almonds.

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 by Dr. Amit Dhingra in 2012 out of his Horticulture Genomics and Biotechnology Research laboratory at Washington State University and is headquartered in Seattle with offices in Pullman, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  In 2016, Phytelligence expanded their footprint including securing an 8-acre Seattle-based greenhouse space and a Portland-based tissue culture lab. Currently, Phytelligence has 50 employees with immediate plans to continue hiring in the near future.

Faster Drop for New Crop

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Water and time are money if you’re a farmer. Trees are especially slow, and to get a new apple variety growing at a commercial scale can take years. It not only takes a couple of years after planting for fruit production to start, but it’s a long time just getting trees to plant.

The number of trees needed to plant a commercial-scale orchard is daunting. Even a small orchard of 100 acres needs nearly a quarter million trees to get going. And while it might take only a couple years to “raise a few rootstocks, thousands can take many years,” Washington State University apple breeder Kate Evans says.

If you placed an order for trees today—forking over about 25 percent of the total cost as a deposit—you might get your trees in three years. But more likely it’ll be five years. In the meantime, you’re not growing anything and you’re not making any money.

A startup called Phytelligence is disrupting that status quo. Founded in 2012 by Amit Dhingra, an associate professor of horticulture at WSU, and a group of his graduate students, the company is working with an innovative technology that means they can deliver millions of trees in a year to 18 months. Couple that with an extraordinary savings in water, a guarantee of the tree being true to type, and the company is poised to be, well, the next Apple of apples…and almonds, grapes, cherries, pears, and much more.

The innovation, at first glance, sounds old hat: Phytelligence is basically growing trees in gelatin in Mason jars. Called tissue culture, it’s a technique that has been a lab standard for a century. But most commercial nurseries that employ tissue culture are using an old one-size-fits-all recipe that was developed to grow one of the lab rats of plant science, tobacco.

It turns out that by customizing the growth medium—the gelatin at the bottom of the Mason jar—and controlling a few other variables in ways apples or other crops find conducive to growth, things speed up. A lot.

A commercial apple tree is almost always a combination of two different kinds of apple. The fruit-bearing part is called the scion. The scion is grafted to a rootstock. Kevin Hauser of Kuffel Creek Nursery in Riverside, California, says, “It’s like joining the brains of a scientist to the legs of an athlete.” Rootstocks do a lot for the fruit tree, including conferring disease resistance, drought tolerance and, critically, they don’t grow very tall. A short tree is a tree that doesn’t demand as many inputs—water, nutrients, chemicals. In other words, it’s a tree that saves growers money.

With conventional production of rootstock, there’s several years’ worth of consumables before the tree gets to the orchard. A young tree is pushed over onto its side so that its branches dive into the soil, forming new roots. The next spring, the whole mass is dug up and separated into individual trees. Over a period of years, this process is repeated many times until the desired number of rootstocks is available. Scions are produced in similar fashion.

Phytelligence saves 50 to 100 gallons of water for every tree they produce, says Tyson Koepke ’12 PhD. One of the company’s founders, Koepke runs Phytelligence’s Pullman operation.

Phytelligence also uses its genomics expertise to guarantee its rootstocks are true to type. Dhingra’s lab was one of the core members of an international team that sequenced the apple genome. They’ve since sequenced the genomes of many other crops. They use this genetic know-how to ensure that they’re delivering what the customer ordered.

If you order dwarfing rootstock, but then discover that you actually got semi-dwarfing trees, you have a major problem. As Koepke says, “Farmers can’t afford to replant because of errors like that.”

So great has the demand been that Phytelligence has expanded well beyond its original Pullman operation. They’ve leased a 200,000-square-foot greenhouse facility in Burien, near Seattle, that has a six- to eight-million-plant capacity.

The family that owned and operated Bel-R Nurseries in Burien were, after three generations, looking to retire. Mike Rastelli ’83 and his wife, Jodee ’83, met Dhingra and decided that Phytelligence would be a good fit for the facility. “It turned out to be two Cougar families melding together,” Rastelli says.

“These greenhouses were built with love,” Dhingra says. Rastelli’s grandfather and father built the greenhouses over a period of years, expanding capacity as the ornamental plant market rapidly expanded after World War II.

The company also leased a vast tissue culture facility just outside Portland. The original setup in Pullman now serves as a germplasm repository and research lab.

Phytelligence’s move into the new digs was well timed. They’ve already sold out their spring 2017 plant production as demand continues to grow. With the expansion of Phytelligence’s leadership team to include Tim Zenk ’84 as vice president of new business, horizons are expanding, too.

Focused on the world’s other two major fruit producers, Zenk says, “China and India have antiquated systems, old trees, and national goals to increase fruit production. The only way to do that is plant new trees.”