Tue November 28, 2023
Western Growers and S2G Ventures have announced the winner of the 2023 AgSharks Pitch Competition, with Climate Robotics earning an equity investment offer of $250,000 from the event's judges.
Climate Robotics is a developer of mobile biochar production systems for commercial agriculture. Biochar is a carbon-negative soil amendment made from waste biomass that helps reverse global climate change.
When biochar is applied to agricultural soils, it boosts crop yield, water retention and nutrient retention. Globally, biochar production has the potential to durably sequester up to two billion tons of atmospheric CO2 in agricultural soils every year, while generating valuable carbon removal credits.
Climate Robotics' trailer-mounted systems allows for low-cost, distributed production of high value biochar directly on the farm.
"We are beyond excited to win the 2023 AgSharks competition," said Jason Aramburu, co-founder and CEO of Climate Robotics.
"There is an immense opportunity to leverage existing resources to sequester billions of tons of CO2 on farms. We are grateful for events like these that help companies such as Climate Robotics scale their tech innovations to decarbonize the atmosphere and improve soil health. We thank S2G and Western Growers for hosting a fantastic event and connecting us with growers, investors and other key members of the agriculture community."
In addition to investment capital, Climate Robotics will receive international recognition, mentoring from WG and S2G, potential access to farm acreage to pilot their technologies and exposure to WG's expansive network of leading fresh produce companies.
"We exist in a world of increasing complexity — water issues, variable climate, fragile supply chains, among other challenges," said Audre Kapacinskas, principal at S2G Ventures. "By working in partnership with Western Growers we seek to accelerate the adoption of new technologies that can solve real-world problems and work in tandem with industry to ensure we are directing capital to its highest and best use. Western Growers has been a phenomenal partner and we look forward to continuing to work together."
"AgSharks is one of the highlights of the Western Growers Annual Meeting because you can see the best and brightest agtech innovators like Climate Robotics succeed in real time," said Walt Duflock, SVP of Innovation at Western Growers. "There is nothing like the pressure cooker of telling your story to hundreds of top produce industry leaders to prove you are ready to take your technology to market."
The funding offer was awarded by S2G Ventures after Climate Robotics competed against two other finalists inventing new technology solutions to solve agriculture's most pressing issues. The other finalists were:
- Cultiva, a global leader in plant cuticle health technology. Its branded products — Parka and Kallur — help growers of specialty crops protect their yield from increasing environmental stresses, including those associated with extreme temperatures and untimely moisture events. Crops protected by Cultiva's technology have reduced incidences of fruit cracking, sunburn, doubling, staining and coloring issues, ultimately improving growers' overall marketable yield.
- Provision, a company whose cloud software simplifies compliance for growers in any commodity, helping them meet requirements from customers, regulators and certifications. By replacing cumbersome paperwork and complex technology with an intuitive interface, automated notifications and smart rules, Provision is helping hundreds of growers across three continents save audit time and improve process control. Tailored for small- to mid-sized operations, Provision's ease of use and customizable data tools put powerful insights within reach from 200 acres to 20,000.
Provision was the Audience Choice Winner, as determined by the votes of those in attendance.
The three startups pitched their inventions in front of an audience of more than 300 fresh produce farmers and industry leaders during the 97th WG Annual Meeting, held in Kauai on Nov. 12-15, 2023.
The competition was hosted by Daryl Shelton, executive vice president at RDO Equipment Co., and judged by Briana Giampaoli, head of Marketing and Product Innovation at Live Oak Farms; Audre Kapacinskas, principal at S2G Ventures; J.P. LaBrucherie, president at LaBrucherie Produce; and Sumeeta Salvador, associate at S2G Ventures.
AgSharks was first held in 2017, and through the competition, past winners Hazel Technologies, Burro and Nutjobs have since brought their products from development to market. Hazel Technologies has raised over $87.8 million in funding over six rounds and is advancing the industry with sachets that extend the shelf life of fresh produce. Burro raised a $10.9 million Series A round in September 2021, led by S2G Ventures and Toyota Ventures, and continues to help solve farmers' labor woes with the expansion of its fleet of autonomous robots to farms across the west. Last year, Nutjobs received an AgSharks record $6 million equity investment for their technology transforming nutshell waste into bioplastics.
Founded in 1926, Western Growers represents local and regional family farmers growing fresh produce in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Western Growers' members and their workers provide over half the nation's fresh fruits, vegetables and tree nuts, including half of America's fresh organic produce.