A team led by veteran grower Eddie Grangetto of Grangetto’s Farm & Garden Supply and co-founder of the Escondido Growers for Agricultural Preservation, took home top honors in the City of Escondido’s inaugural AgTech Hackathon on Sunday, October 23. The team also included Ying Sun of Salk Institute, Cale Lackey of Fain Drilling, and Stuart Compton, a veteran avocado grower. Their concept, Microbe Grow, would allow farmers to grow their own environmentally safe, soil-amending, plant-enhancing microorganisms that are fermented in a bioreactor.
Second-place honors went to a team led by Bryan Bui-Tuong, CEO of San Diego-based IoT solutions company Parley Labs, for their Yield Doctor concept: a sensor kit for farmers to retrieve real-time data about crop performance. The team also included Minh Vuong, Jonathon Bao, and Daniel Sundal. Coming in third was Bonsall Berry Farm, an experiential agritourism concept targeting families developed and led by Oceanside resident Mario DeMatteo. Other teammates were Rhona Lopez, Jameson Meyst, and Honorebel Walker.
The first-place winner, Microbe Grow, will receive $5,000 as seed money to develop their business, plus in-kind business services and coworking space in Escondido’s potential AgTech incubator. The second and third-place winners received a cash prize and business resources.
The three-day AgTech Hackathon kicked off on Friday, October 21 at Escondido’s Synergy Coworking Centre to an audience that consisted of a cross-section of farmers, politicians, business and technology leaders, investors and community activists. Following a welcome reception and a panel of speakers that included Escondido mayor Paul McNamara, University of California agronomist Dr. Olie G. Bachie and San Diego County District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond, people came forward to pitch their ideas and recruit teams. Over the course of the weekend, they validated and advanced their ideas with help and mentorship from leaders at companies such as CalSense, Gener8tor, BlueNalu, Aquaspy and Creating Coding Careers. On Sunday, October 23, the teams pitched their idea and received feedback from a panel of industry judges. Congressman and entrepreneur Darrell Issa (CA-50) also made a surprise appearance on Sunday to encourage the participants.
The Hackathon is one pillar of an ongoing campaign by the City of Escondido, one of San Diego County’s key farming hubs, to support agricultural innovation and attract early and late-stage AgTech startups to the region. “We see AgTech as a key component of economic growth in Escondido, and the Hackathon was designed to support and encourage the entrepreneurs who are addressing some of the big challenges facing the agricultural industry,” says Jennifer Schoeneck, Deputy Director of Economic Development for the City of Escondido. “We want Escondido to be a part of the solution and create an environment where innovators in this space can grow and thrive.”