CHICAGO – Sente Foundry, an investment platform provider for startup companies, in partnership with GrowRay Lighting Technologies and consultancy firm Nobo Inc., announced the launch of a new program focused on indoor agriculture technology. Startup AgTech businesses from around the world are invited to participate in the virtual program which will take place from October to December, 2020.
The Indoor AgTech program will feature a tech-based platform to showcase hardware, software, and process technologies. The program’s aim is to help startups scale and to help clients produce high-quality and consistent yield for indoor crops.
“With the [hemp/cannabis] industry being fractured and opaque, we’re looking to bridge the gap between promising young technology companies and the industry,” said Ash Ganley, chief executive officer at GrowRay, a Boulder, Colorado-based manufacturer of patented LED lighting. Serving the greenhouse and indoor agricultural industry, GrowRay has helped customers increase production output and reduce energy cost.
Sente’s Chief Operating Officer Gerod Carfantan said the Indoor AgTech program seeks to identify and help build up startups that would complement GrowRay, in which Sente has been an investor and partner for about a year. He said the idea, initially, is to “get them together to play in the same sandbox, creating synergies wherever they can be.”
Working together, teams from Sente and GrowRay will provide “a structured process” to put the startups on better footing for attracting investors and customers. The program seeks to identify about eight to twelve startups, Carfantan said.
With GrowRay’s access to commercial grow facilities in multiple states, startups will be able to ply their wares in the real world. “The objective is being able to use their technology in an actual grow operation,” said Carfantan. “We want to do as many proof of concepts as we can. The first phase from October to December would be the evaluation with a virtual show.”
With a slate of activities designed to analyze the startups, each participant will be able to connect on projects for indoor and greenhouse customers. They also will be introduced to “an ecosystem of indoor AgTech investors and service providers,” according to Sentry. The company typically offers pre-seed and early stage funding.
The type of startups encouraged to apply are involved in developing innovative tech to improve, automate, and streamline agriculture in greenhouses and indoor growing environments. Specifically, Sente is looking for technology visionaries in lighting tech, automation, computer vision, operations software, fertigation tech, plant data technologies, pest control, and workflow management.
With the COVID-19 pandemic creating an economic downturn across most industries, Ganley said the Indoor AgTech program’s timing is critical. “You have people digging claws in and waiting this thing out,” he said. “We control our own destiny. This is our time to take advantage and go ahead. We provide the opportunity to these smaller companies.”
Sente plans to continue investing in ancillary technologies in the cannabis/hemp space that could be applied outside of it, Carfantan said, adding “if it works for cannabis, which is a picky plant, then it could be applied to other farming and agriculture industries.”
The deadline to apply for the AgTech Investment program is August 16. Startups from anywhere in the world are eligible. Applications are accepted via Sente’s website.