March 20, 2015
“The RoyseLaw AgTech Incubator, an initiative spun out of a law firm that works with clients in the industry, is one of them. Roger Royse, founder of Royse Law, has been watching the ag-tech space for a few years. “I could see the stuff coming out of the tech community wasn’t getting adopted,” he says. “What was missing was an incubator that would give these companies business skills and also help get them in front of the relevant markets.”
Royse has so far announced 11 of his 15 startups. They include FarmX, a company developing a real-time farm health-monitoring tool; Ayrstone, which is developingoutdoor wireless networks for farms; AgRite, a startup that has created an automated wireless fertilizer injection and irrigation system; and RapidBio Systems, which is working on a handheld pathogen detection system. He’s hopeful that the incubator’s mentors, who are closely involved in the agriculture industry, can help with introductions. “Farmers in [Central Valley farming community] Salinas—the last thing they want to see is another sensor salesman. They want to see someone who’s credible, who they know and trust that says this is state of the art,” he says.
The potential market for Royse’s startups is big. For farmers—especially those in California, which is where many Silicon Valley agriculture startups are focusing their energies—one of the most pressing issues is drought. The state is approaching its fourth summer with dangerously low water levels, and the economic impact on the agriculture industry will run into the billions. If a series of, say, high-tech sensors that can tell farmers precisely how much fertilizer to apply to a plant can save money at a time when they’re already struggling, the farmers will get onboard. Even in times when drought isn’t an issue, products that help farmers come up with time and money-saving plans for future planting are attention-grabbing.”