[dt_highlight color=”” text_color=”” bg_color=””]by Kevin Chen[/dt_highlight]
2017 was a pivotal year for Crop Enhancement, and we exited the year well positioned for 2018. During the course of the year, we focused our efforts on three initiatives: strengthening the company structurally; product and field development; and market education. In this blog, I’ll take you through the highlights and tee up the year ahead.
On the staffing front, 2017 was an important year for Crop Enhancement. We were pleased to welcome Damian Hajduk as VP of R&D, with Eric Flora joining as global field development manager. We hired our first entomologist, Kavita Sharma, who quickly established a new biology lab for mode-of-action studies.
We also announced the formation of a distinguished board of advisors consisting of agribusiness industry veterans Marcus Meadows-Smith, Mark Phillipson, and Mary Shelman — talented individuals who actively contribute market insights, strategy recommendations, and valuable connections.
We moved our operations to the heart of Silicon Valley, occupying a newly renovated multipurpose lab and office space conveniently situated 1 mile from San Jose International airport and blocks away from public transportation. The entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley is no more apparent than seeing how an agriculture technology company such as Crop Enhancement can be just a block away from an internet pioneer such as PayPal.
This location perfectly suits Crop Enhancement’s creative culture and enables us to maximize our operational efficiency, reduce overhead costs, be closer to our customers and partners, and access industry talent. As part of the move from Cambridge, MA, to San Jose, we expanded our local team with experienced and entrepreneurial individuals for our formulation (Anne Xie and Gina Leung), CFO (Steve Terry), general counsel (Archana Ojha), and senior accountant (Kathryn Lorenzo) roles. We sadly said farewell to our team members who remained in Cambridge, and thank them for their contributions and friendship: Bob Mahoney, Rosa Casado, Matt Bosley, Rodrigo Telles, and Kavita Sharma.
Amid these personnel and geographic changes, we were happy to begin a banking relationship with Silicon Valley Bank, which has provided Crop Enhancement with a $2M venture debt line. With this additional financing, we will be able to achieve more value creation milestones.
Product and field development
Throughout 2017, our product development team made important improvements to the CropCoat® formulation, including advances to the concentrated formulation itself, how it is applied, and how the product coats plant tissues. We also explored formulations that combine CropCoat with various active ingredients, including biologicals, to evaluate crop protection benefits. We continue to make progress on these efforts. We launched a product registration process in a key international geography to enable commercialization of CropCoat.
In terms of field development, we established a robust research bioassay and field trial program with partners that include contract research organizations (CROs), universities, and corporate partners to evaluate CropCoat performance. Our crop targets include cacao, coffee, and tree fruits across multiple geographies. We are also testing the response of a variety of pests and pathogens to the CropCoat product. I am also pleased to report that our Tunable Release Vehicle (TRV) technology is attracting interest from manufacturers of active ingredients and fertilizers seeking to improve the performance of their chemistries.
Market education initiatives
As a new entrant into the integrated pest management (IPM) sector, we are focused on introducing growers and farmers to our planet-friendly approach. To that end, we worked closely with several influential publications to raise awareness of the applications CropCoat has in different sectors. As a result of these initiatives, we were fortunate to place articles and CEO interviews with AgroPages, Food Processing, Fresh Cup, and the TerraTech podcast. More of these educational pieces are planned for 2018.
The Crop Enhancement team was also highly visible at industry events where we were lucky enough to be invited to speak on various topics:
- Silicon Valley AgTech Conference – on international ag
- Entomological Society of America – on CropCoat performance
- World Cocoa Foundation – on cacao crop issues
We were also delighted to win the pitch competition for new materials startups at Plug and Play Tech Accelerator’s 2017 Summer Summit. And you should also check out our new corporate video:
2018 will be an even bigger year for Crop Enhancement!
Building on the strong foundation we laid last year, in 2018 we’ll expand our field development efforts, advance our CropCoat and TRV platforms, and kick off market development initiatives. We’re already off to a fast start with two formulation scientists (Neal Ryan and Yeon Choi) and a staff entomologist (Matheus Ribeiro) joining the team in just the last week. We are actively interviewing talented candidates to fill additional job opportunities, including one for business development.
We are also very pleased to welcome Dr. Jerry Hjelle to our board of advisors. A former technology executive at agrochemical leader Monsanto, Jerry brings extensive experience in worldwide regulatory strategy and product development strategy.
Connect with us this year
We’re eager to hear from potential customers and partners. Growers of high-value crops tell us that they are eagerly looking for solutions that reduce insecticide and fungicide use, save them labor costs and application time, and improve their sustainability profiles. We are taking their input to heart and looking forward to a productive and exciting year ahead. Contact us if you’d like to learn how Crop Enhancement can help you.