Santa Cruz Sentinel
SOQUEL – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded SureHarvest, a small, growing, software company, a $761,820 Conservation Innovation Grant to help specialty crop owners measure their performance in sustainable practices.
The grant allows SureHarvest to continue its work developing a way for companies to identify and track sustainable processes and materials in their supply chain and do in field pilot testing, said Jeff Dlott, founding president of SureHarvest. The grant will be split with SureHarvest partners and makes up less than 10 percent of the company’s revenues.
“This is a project we’ve been working on since 2008,” Dlott said. Acting as lead for the pilot testing component “helps us really stay on the cutting edge of what’s practical and useful in managing sustainability.”
SureHarvest technology helps agriculture companies track energy use, water use and nutrient use. It’s a win-win for the company and the public, said Dlott who describes sustainability as a business strategy.
Administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Conservation Innovation Grant awards are part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which encourages conservation technologies and approaches. Conservation Innovation Grant recipients in 40 states have received nearly $22.5 million. Grant winners pay 50 percent of project costs.
In 2009, SureHarvest received a $630,000 Natural Resources Conservation Service grant for the same Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops project. Renewal funding was requested to continue what was described as “an unprecedented collaboration amongst the nation’s most influential grower organizations, NGOs and buyers of specialty crop products.”
The company, founded in 1999, employed 14 people in February and currently employs 16. It is on track to grow revenues about 20 percent and expects to hire another two people by the end of the year, Dlott said.
In May, the company announced the addition of three new sales people, one will focus on farming companies in the southern San Joaquin Valley, Salinas Valley and Central Coast and another will focus on fruit, nut and winegrape growers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and the North Coast regions.
The company has expanded its work with the California almond industry to include farmers who are benchmarking best sustainability practices involving close to 100,000 acres. Starting next month, the company will be making its first foray into alternative energy industry with a pilot test in the sugar beet industry in the Central Valley.
In other company news, the company received last month a “California’s 2011 Leaders In Agriculture Innovation” for positive innovation in California’s agricultural industry.
Jon Gregory, president and chief executive officer of Grow California, a trade organization for California Agriculture, described SureHarvest as “a true game changer in its innovative approach. “It is a business that has caught the interest of numerous investors, bankers and economic development organizations who consulted with us to identify California agricultural companies who were impressed by their focus on innovation.”
The selection committee included investment banks, venture capitalists, academics and conference sponsors. For more information about the California Agriculture Innovation conference and the “Game Changer of the Year” awards, visit: www.grow-california.com/