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Five Questions with SVG Partners CTO as THRIVE Accelerator Launches Second Round 

November 13, 2015

SVG Partners’ THRIVE Accelerator is officially open for its second year. Involving participation from global companies like Verizon, Forbes, and Western Growers, SVG has branded the accelerator as an investment program for technology-enabled startups in the precision agriculture space.

After applications close on December 31, 2015, selected companies will be invited to participate in an eight-week program based in California’s Salinas Vally—an agricultural powerhouse that is quickly becoming a pulse point for agtech, especially after Forbes hosted a segment of its Reinventing America summit series in the area earlier this year.

The selectees will hit the ground running on January 11 in THRIVE’s seed camp.

The core program kicks off on February 29 in Salinas. During the eight-weeks course, the startups will participate in a variety of support programs and workshop outlets focusing on topics like financing, presentation skills, market penetration, scaling strategies, and technology benchmarking.

Demo day is set for May 9, where the judges will select two winners: a best in class for innovation and a best in class for sustainability. The winners will receive an award at the Forbes Summit in Salinas, California on June 2-3, 2016. This will provide the winners with opportunities to attract attention, gain followers, and start branding their businesses, according to SVG Partners’ chief technology officer Chris Boody.

Boody says the accelerator has two main goals this time around: “First, we are committed to continuing to build the ecosystem around agtech, including large corporations, universities, mentors, investors, and startups. Second, we want to fill our pipeline with as many high-quality startups as possible to provide the best opportunities for our investment fund.”

Last year’s winners were Nuritas, for innovation, and California Safe Soil for sustainability

California Safe Soil is a company that uses fresh food recycling technology to create its fertilizer crop input product called Harvest-to-Harvest. The company transforms consumer food waste, unsold food items, and other discarded scraps into soil amendment products that return nutrients to the soil while helping promoting farm sustainability.

Nuritas focuses on the discovery of novel and natural food ingredients with health benefits. The company employs artificial intelligence and DNA analysis to data-mine billions of molecules, allowing it to identify bioactive peptides, which have been identified as providing substantial health benefits.

Finalists from the last year’s round included big data analytics outfit GeoVisual, and fresh food delivery platform Green Onyx among many others.

AgFunderNews recently had the chance to speak with SVG Partners’ chief technology officer Chris Boody about the THRIVE accelerator’s second year and what to expect.

Why do you think agtech companies are becoming more common in general tech competitions?

I think there have been some great events and media coverage around the intersection of agriculture and technology, including the recent Forbes Reinventing America event held in Salinas over the summer.  There are recent announcements from venture capital companies starting to make investments in this space and I think that agriculture can greatly benefit from the practical application of technology.

As a corollary, what has driven the increase in accelerators dedicated to agtech?

It is pretty common to see accelerators bloom directly in-line with the additional investment of VC money, but I also think we are seeing more accelerators appear to try to find the fit for technology solutions into specific agriculture areas.  If I may, I think that one of the things which separates the THRIVE accelerator from some of the other programs is access.  Access to leaders in the agtech industry who have proven they know how to scale and grow their businesses.  As well as access to organizations like Western Growers Association, where I attended their 90th annual event in San Diego this week.  Those levels of access are incredibly valuable for small companies to validate and fine-tune their product and technology.

What differentiates the THRIVE Accelerator from other accelerators?

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of access to key mentors and decision makers on the agtech side. I also want to take a moment to talk about the partnership we have with the Western Growers Innovation Center, which is opening during the first quarter of 2016 in Salinas, California. The Thrive program and the Western Growers Innovation Center work together to find the most promising companies in agtech.  We have a clear sense of the challenges and opportunities in this sector, based on the vast knowledge Western Growers brings with over 90 years serving their members.  We examine those challenges and opportunities and we leverage our pipeline to Silicon Valley through Thrive to gain access to hottest companies in this space.

How has the THRIVE Accelerator changed since last year?

There will be more focus on scale this year with the THRIVE accelerator program.  We had a number of great companies last year but we are starting to attract more companies, which have solid customer and revenue traction but they need help growing and scaling.  We want to connect those companies with the customers and distribution channels in the US and around the world, which allow them to grow and scale.

How may applications have you received so far?

We don’t disclose the total number of applicants, but I will say that I am very impressed with the number of global companies I am seeing apply to the program.  We have applicants who have learned about this program and are interested in their company participating because they have a very specific, targeted product solution from their country which they think can be adopted for US markets.  It’s amazing to me.  For example, some of the water challenges in CA and other states have recently received more media attention in the US but have been around in other countries for a much longer time.  SVG is leveraging THRIVE to find the most innovative companies around the world to help solve the global demands for food production.

To be part of the Thrive program, apply here.

Have news or tips? Email [email protected]

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