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Phytelligence™ Announces New Vice President of Operations

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SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Phytelligence, a leading agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing the way food crops are grown, today announced the hiring of its new Vice President of Operations, David LeBreton. LeBreton will lead the company’s lab, greenhouse and pre-production teams in North America.

In this new role, LeBreton will ensure operations are functioning efficiently to meet grower demand, oversee the integration of pre-production technology, and spearhead the implementation of infrastructure systems and processes to support rapid company growth.

David has quickly demonstrated strong leadership and earned respect from our teams in Portland and Seattle,” said Ken Hunt, CEO of Phytelligence. “We are thrilled to have his support managing and advancing the company’s growth. His experience in strategy development, performance and operation management, coupled with his drive for service improvement will be extremely valuable as we continue to expand and provide growers with the highest quality food crops.”

LeBreton has been working with Phytelligence for the past nine months, evaluating research functions and developing an operational strategy for pre-production before stepping into his new position. In his prior role, he created a framework and procedure for assessing and introducing new products into the company’s sales portfolio.

Prior to joining Phytelligence, LeBreton built a strong career in a variety of fields, including as the principal at LeBreton & Sons, a family owned residential real estate company, where he oversaw capital investment and expansion. He also spent time as the managing director at Popskull, an advertising startup. In addition, LeBreton held the role of chief performance officer for Cook County government in the greater Chicago area, where he led a successful performance management initiative. LeBreton has also supported several political campaigns as a campaign strategist and organizer.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with some transformative leaders and groundbreaking organizations throughout my career and during my first year at Phytelligence,” LeBreton said. “I am eager to apply my knowledge around strategy, performance and operations to my new role as we continue to build on the already impressive and disruptive growth.”

About Phytelligence

Phytelligence is an agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing the way food crops are grown. Utilizing its MultiPHY™ proprietary growing techniques to provide superior quality crops, Phytelligence enables higher grower profit by increasing speed to harvest and reducing input costs. Phytelligence provides additional value to food crop growers and plant breeders through the application of advanced testing enabling guaranteed delivery of accurate plants, disease screening, plant repository services, securing of intellectual property, and the ability to co-develop new varieties of food crops. The company 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 facilities in Pullman, Wash. and Portland, Ore. Learn more at www.phytelligence.com.

Contacts

PR for Phytelligence
Janae Frisch and AnnMarie Henriksson
206-282-4923 ext. 125
phytelligence@communiquepr.com

Phytelligence Founder Amit Dhingra Promoted to Professor of Genomics and Biotechnology at Washington State University

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Phytelligence, a leading agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing the way food crops are grown, is proud to announce that its founder, Amit Dhingra has been promoted to professor of genomics and biotechnology in the department of horticulture at Washington State University’s (WSU) College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences. Amit will remain Phytelligence’s chief science officer and continue driving innovation and discovery in horticulture.

Amit has been a valued member of WSU’s faculty for the past 12 years. He joined the university in 2006 as an assistant professor and was promoted and received tenure in 2012. Most recently, he held the title of associate scientist and associate professor of horticulture genomics with the university.

“I am honored by the university’s recognition and eager to continue my research, instruction, and support of activities aligned with WSU’s mission on a more enhanced basis,” said Amit Dhingra. “The partnership between Phytelligence and WSU is deeply rooted in the University’s land grant mission and I look forward to giving back to the university by advancing students’ training for the food crop industry.”

Promotion to a full-time professor demonstrates Amit’s expertise and the confidence his colleagues and university administrators have in his ability to embody WSU’s mission. The promotion also presents added expectations for scholarship and leadership opportunities.

In addition to his role as a professor, Amit is deeply involved with the university as a chairperson in WSU’s Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassadors program, member of the Provost Leadership Academy and Graduate Mentor Academy, member of the graduate faculty in four graduate programs including the NIH Protein Biotechnology Training program, Molecular Plant Sciences Graduate program and the Horticulture and Master of Science in Agriculture program. Amit also serves on various departmental, college and university committees and coordinates two undergraduate research programs: one for Native American students and the other in the area of plant genomics and biotechnology.

“We are proud of Amit and wish him the best in his new role,” said Ken Hunt, CEO of Phytelligence. “He is invaluable to our growth and made it possible for Phytelligence to provide growers with the highest quality crops available in the industry.”

Amit has received numerous awards and honors throughout his 12 years with the university, including the National Council on Undergraduate Research Biology Division Mentor Award in 2017, Favorite Professor and Influential Faculty Recognition by the undergraduate students in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences in 2016 and 2017, WSU Entrepreneurial Faculty Ambassador in 2016, Outstanding Thesis Advisor in the Honors College in 2014. He was nominated to the university’s Provost Emerging Leader Faculty Member program in 2011, was a Featured University Faculty at WSU’s Innovators Series Lectures in 2008 and received the Undergraduate Research Excellence Award in the College of Undergraduate Education in 2008.

Phytelligence Welcomes New Global Vice President of Sales for Berries

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Phytelligence, a leading agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing the way food crops are grown, today announced the addition of Lee Cobb to its team as global vice president of sales for its berry segment. Cobb will pioneer expansion of the company’s berry sector and lead the pursuit of new customers eager to propagate berry plants and develop new varieties.

In his new role, Cobb will work alongside the company’s sales team to strengthen existing relationships with berry growers and educate new customers on the benefits of tissue culture practices and planting genetically confirmed, true-to-type and disease-free berry plants.

“The combination of Lee’s sales and business development background with his experience as a berry farmer is impressive and aligns well with our objective to grow our berry segment,” said Ken Hunt, CEO of Phytelligence. “His deep knowledge of the blueberry industry and the challenges growers face in this space will be instrumental to further support our growers, as well as new customers.”

Cobb has widespread industry experience both farming and leading sales and strategy development in the berry market. Mostly recently, Cobb served as the blueberry commodity manager at BlazerWilkinson LP (BW), where he led BW’s blueberry business to $5 million in less than two years under the well-known “FOXY” label. Prior to BW’s 2016 acquisition of Andrew Smith Co.’s (ASCO) berry business, formerly Colorful Harvest LLC, Cobb was hired to help the company enter the blueberry sector in 2012; and a year later, he was promoted to ASCO’s vice president of business development of blueberries. In this role, Cobb was forefront in the successful launch of the company’s blueberry segment.

Cobb was also paramount in blueberry cultivation at Bee Branch Farms Inc. (BBF) and ultimately the sale of the company in 2012. Cobb held several leadership roles during his time at BBF and also co-wrote an industry white paper, which secured an investment partner and doubled the company’s farm acreage within two years.

“I look forward to joining Phytelligence and building its capacity to service berry segment growers,” said Cobb. “I’m eager to expand my knowledge of tissue culture practices and further the company’s commitment to delivering high-quality crops across all sectors.”

About Phytelligence

Phytelligence is an agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing the way food crops are grown. Utilizing its proprietary growing techniques to provide superior quality crops, Phytelligence enables higher grower profit by increasing speed to harvest and reducing input costs. Phytelligence provides additional value to food crop growers and plant breeders through the application of advanced genetics enabling guaranteed delivery of accurate plants, disease screening, plant repository services, securing of intellectual property, and the ability to co-develop new varieties of food crops. The company 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 facilities in Pullman, Wash. and Portland, Ore. Learn more at www.phytelligence.com.

Contacts

PR for Phytelligence
Janae Frisch and AnnMarie Henriksson, 206-282-4923 ext. 125
phytelligence@communiquepr.com

Phytelligence Inks Deal with Seven Star Fruits, a Mahyco Grow Company, India’s Leading Agriculture Innovator

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Phytelligence brings MultiPHY™ technology to India to revolutionize Indian horticulture 

Phytelligence, a leading agricultural biotechnology company revolutionizing the way food crops are grown, today announces a partnership with Mahyco Grow to provide Indian farmers with the most advanced technology available in horticulture.

The plants produced by Seven Star Fruits, a company of Mahyco Grow, using the Phytelligence MultiPHY™ process will support higher density planting systems, which results in higher yields per acre and more sustainable production. The partnership will also enable the delivery of new varieties of apples, cherries, peaches, plums, berries, grapes, nuts, oranges and other tropical fruits to Mahyco Grow’s existing customers and the region’s farmers.

Utilizing Mahyco Grow’s extensive network and agricultural expertise along with Phytelligence’s world-leading MultiPHY™ technology, the partnership aims to help growers plant modern rootstocks and varieties, improve farm incomes and increase fruit quality. The first trees of the partnership will be available for sale in 2018 and delivered in the spring of 2019.

“Collaborating with a group as innovative as Mahyco Grow presents a strong step forward for Phytelligence internationally,” said Phytelligence CEO Ken Hunt. “It’s a major win not only for the company, but also for growers in the region who can look forward to improved plant material and a much higher profit in the coming years. Our mission is to serve growers across the globe and this partnership takes us one step closer to fulfilling that promise.”

“Combining the expertise of both companies will have a significant impact on farmers’ lives by improving yields and providing disease resistant plants,” remarked Aashish Barwale, Director, Seven Star Fruits Private Limited. “As a leading group in the agriculture field, we’ve experienced first-hand how innovations in agronomy make a very real difference to the people within our own communities. We look forward to making an impact in the fruit industry in India together.”

About Mahyco Grow

Mahyco Grow, formerly known as Barwale Group, was founded in 1964 by Dr. Badrinarayan Barwale, a World Food Prize winner, with a vision to resolve farming challenges by expanding the availability of the latest scientific solutions in seeds. The group has pioneered seed innovations in India with the introduction of several hybrids and Bt Cotton – the first in the country’s history. The Group’s research infrastructure in India has recently expanded its presence to South East Asia and Africa. Seven Star Fruits Pvt Ltd, a part of Mahyco Grow, is dedicated to improving the global fresh fruit industry through agricultural innovation.

About Phytelligence

Phytelligence is an agricultural technology 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 at Washington State University. Phytelligence is headquartered in Seattle with facilities in Burien and Pullman, Wash. and Portland, Ore. Currently, Phytelligence has over 100 employees and continues to grow.

Contacts

Phytelligence:
Communiqué PR for Phytelligence
Janae Frisch and AnnMarie Henriksson, +1-206-282-4923 ext. 125
Phytelligence@communiquepr.com
or
Mahyco Grow:
Subbarao Appemane, +91 22 67573000
Corporate Communication – Lead
subbarao.appemane@mahyco.com

Phytelligence Works to Protect Rights to Cosmic Crisp Apple and Provide Greater Access for Growers

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In late February, we filed a lawsuit against Washington State University (WSU) to protect Phytelligence’s right to propagate Cosmic Crisp apples and increase availability for Washington state growers.

In 2012, we were granted an option for a license from WSU or its agent to commercially propagate Cosmic Crisp. We have exercised that option; however, WSU and its agents have not yet provided the license to Phytelligence. Our efforts have been met with repeated delays and misinformation, ultimately preventing us from propagating Cosmic Crisp to date. During this time, Washington state growers have been increasingly frustrated with unnecessarily restricted access to Cosmic Crisp.

We recognize and value WSU’s broad and continuing support of Phytelligence; our concerns in this matter stem from the actions of a few individuals within the University. As such, concurrent to this legal filing, we are continuing to work directly with WSU to identify a mutually beneficial resolution.

Given our long-standing relationship with WSU and our shared interests, we are optimistic this issue can be resolved to everyone’s benefit.

Ken Hunt

CEO, Phytelligence

Phytelligence Welcomes New Vice President of Global Sales for Grapes

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SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Phytelligence, a leading agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing food crops, today announced the addition of Curt Granger to its team as vice president of global sales for the grapes segment. Granger will lead the company’s pursuit of new customers for rootstock, whole plant, genetic analysis and repository services in the grapes and wine agricultural market to fuel additional growth.

Granger will collaborate with Phytelligence’s customer service, accounting and marketing teams to ensure the company delivers high-quality plants and services to its customers. As the vice president of global sales for grapes, Granger will provide grape growers with genetically confirmed, true-to-type grape rootstock and self-rooted plant material.

“Curt’s strategic thinking and expertise in greenhouse, bio-agriculture and crop innovation align well with our objectives to deliver genetically confirmed, virus-free plants to growers,” said Ken Hunt, CEO of Phytelligence. “His deep knowledge of the challenges and opportunities faced by growers will further expand our efforts to address the rootstock bottleneck that has been plaguing the industry for the past several decades.”

Granger began his career as assistant to the vineyards manager at Buena Vista Winery in the Carneros wine grape growing region in California. He then moved to Bien Nacido and French Camp Vineyards where he was Northern California’s wine grape, bulk wine sales manager placing more than 5,000 tons of grapes in long-term contracts with North Coast wineries.

After eight years as director of marketing for California Kiwifruit Commission, he transitioned to executive vice president of marketing for Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, where the marketing activities he directed supported the increase of retail table grape sales to $1.7 billion from 1997 to 2004. He also held a vice president of marketing role with premium tree fruit brand Ripe ‘N Ready, and was most recently developing markets for biopesticides nationally and on the West Coast.

“I am thrilled to be joining the Phytelligence team,” said Granger. “The company’s commitment to delivering superior quality results is unparalleled. They have a validated solution and an impressive growth trajectory that I am excited to help drive forward.”

About Phytelligence

Phytelligence is an agricultural biotechnology company that is revolutionizing the way food crops are grown. Utilizing its proprietary growing techniques to provide superior quality crops, Phytelligence enables higher grower profit by increasing speed to harvest and reducing input costs. Phytelligence provides additional value to food crop growers and plant breeders through the application of advanced genetics enabling guaranteed delivery of accurate plants, disease screening, plant repository services, securing of intellectual property, and the ability to co-develop new varieties of food crops. The company 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, Wash. and Portland, Ore. Learn more at www.phytelligence.com.

Phytelligence Named to GeekWire’s Prestigious Seattle 10 List

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SEATTLE, Wash. – November 15, 2017 – Phytelligence, an agricultural biotechnology company revolutionizing the way food crops are grown, was recently named to the GeekWire Seattle 10, an innovative list of groundbreaking startups based in the Seattle region. GeekWire is a fast-growing, national technology news site that publishes the Seattle 10 list yearly.

To select the winners, a panel of heavy hitters from within the tech industry was asked to find the next Zillow, Amazon or Expedia from the ever-growing Seattle tech pool. Only companies with legitimate product traction that have moved out of the “idea” stage were considered for the list.

The Seattle 10 list companies will display canvas posters about their history and business at Seattle’s Museum of History and Innovation through February 2018. The canvases will be unveiled at the GeekWire Gala on December 6, 2017 at MOHAI in Seattle.

The judges noted the combination of industry disruption and the environmental advantages of Phytelligence appealed to the Seattle 10 panel, who look for organizations with both compelling technology and a global benefit.

Phytelligence helps fruit growers across the globe by providing superior quality plants using their proprietary MultiPHY™ micropropagation technology. Starting plants in custom formulated, nutrient-rich gel enables rapid growth of the healthiest and strongest plants possible for growers to plant in their fields. The plants are also genetically screened to confirm accurate shipment of correct varieties and ensure that they are virus and disease free. This puts money back into the grower’s pocket by generating more sales faster while reducing costs from planting the wrong type of tree, or mortality from diseased plants.

In addition to an increase in ROI for produce growers, there are several environmental benefits to using Phytelligence plants and the MultiPHY™ method, including significant water savings. Plants grown in the proprietary MultiPHY™ gel use less water throughout their life cycle compared to traditional nurseries, a critical benefit for drought-ridden regions. Healthier plants also require fewer pesticides and chemicals and the ability to produce plants faster leads to more available produce globally.

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 Burien, Washington, Pullman, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Currently, Phytelligence has 75 employees and continues to grow.

 

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.

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.