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Bloombites | October 25, 2022

by Neal Bloom

Wow what a weekend! The Escondido AgTech Hackathon was an incredible experience where we created companies from scratch in a weekend’s time of late nights, great food, and lots of iterative collaboration.


In the end, Microbe Grow won! Most of this team had never met before Friday Oct 21 and partnered up after grower Eddie Grangetto of Escondido Growers for Agricultural Preservation and Grangetto’s Farm & Garden Supply pitched an idea to grow pesticides and fertilizers on a farm from local microbes. Think brewing your own farm microbiome. Eddie and team member Stuart Compton, an avocado farmer and industrial technician had been brainstorming this idea for a few years and were ready to turn it into a reality.


In the audience happened to be Ying Sun, a post-doc at Salk Institute whose expertise is the biology of plant roots to enhance yield of nutrient uptake. She joined Eddie.


Also in the audience, Cale Lackey, a farm water well driller, who planned to pitch his own idea of creating a hydrogen powered-well pump. He joined this team instead.


A diverse skill set team that almost didn’t happen. Grower Eddie Grangetto, who’s been in business 40+ years, was at first turned off by the hackathon curriculum. 20 minutes in, he asked when he was going to pitch his idea to investors. After some reassurance that this program helps you get ready by focusing on the business, he again voiced his concerns but said he’d stay for a little bit longer.


But by the end of Friday night, he was already seeing the light.


And by Saturday afternoon, he was a changed man. Eddie was thrilled at the way the teams were brought together, how the exercises helped them understand their assumptions, how to go out to customers to challenge their assumptions, and iterate the business forward.


We surrounded the team with a big team of mentors, made up of experienced entrepreneurs like A.J. Van de ven, CEO of Calsense or Jack Marck of the Gener8tor AgTech Accelerator powered by Serra Ventures in Illinois. Yes he traveled from Champagne, Illinois, to join this. So did Mike Haldane of Calsense from Minnesota.


Sunday was the pitch competition and the team of judges consisted of venture capitalists, a soil entrepreneur, an agtech licensing/IP lawyer, and an university professor of agronomy. Thanks to Steve Beck, Matt Ferry, Pete Oberle, Mary Matava, and Oli Bachie. And a huge thank you to Michael Norton for leading us through the whole hackathon weekend!


Jennifer Schoeneck and I are so proud of what came from this weekend. Thank you for helping us make new companies! That’s what it’s all about.


Read the full debrief and see photos from the event here. We’re already kicking off our next AgTech event in January, so come join us!


It was exhilarating and the fun continues this week as we kick off San Diego Startup Week Tuesday Oct 25 in Carlsbad. I hope to see you there. This is where we help new entrepreneurs grow confidence by learning from experienced founders.

Ask me where the Oct 25 After Party is ;)




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