Home Events The Local Basket Wins 2024 Escondido AgX Startup Hackathon

The Local Basket Wins 2024 Escondido AgX Startup Hackathon

New grand challenges brought forth ideas in seed, soil, food logistics, and agriculture ecosystem innovations in a competition led by The City of Escondido and Fresh Brewed Tech

by Neal Bloom

(March 10, 2024 – Escondido, CA) Team The Local Basket took home top honors in the City of Escondido’s second AgX Startup Hackathon on Saturday, March 9. The team included Eric Westreich of iValue Global, Antonio Villanueva, Saian Ford, and Gustavo Vazquez, all from ArkusNexus. The latter three team members plus 10 other hackathon participants traveled from Mexico to participate. The winning concept, The Local Basket, enables farmers to find new revenue paths by building demand for their produce with themed farmer baskets ordered directly from consumers. The subscription-based app facilitates pre-orders, helping farmers gauge demand and connecting consumers with growers through stories and experiences linked to their themed baskets. This concept is now live and taking pre-orders. The concept was an entirely different idea when pitched Thursday night and iterated through many customer interviews on Day 2 and 3.

Second-place honors went to Fieldwise, a farm team operations application, led by Megan Strom. Megan, a farmer herself, had been developing the farm software company Navore Market prior to participating in this Hackathon. The Fieldwise team also included Claudia Ylagan, an SDSU student, Nick Aschenbach of Aurelis Solutions, and Mary Knight, an experienced tech product designer.

Coming in third was Sunergy, an artificial sun for indoor farming, developed by Dr. Kat Donnelly and Sun Mutialu. Joining them were software developers Israel Cabrera and Alejandro Quiroz of ArkusNexus.

Other honorable mentions were teams EcoCycle, a food waste incentive and education app by Selene Alvarado Martinez of SDSU and Helena Qin of Intuit, and Orchard Oasis, a plant diversity service to increase grower revenue with exotic fruits and plants. The team was led by Brian Laugher, an exotic plant botanist and team members Ben Schrik, an ag finance professional, Charlotte DiBiase, plant biologist and botanist, and Ying Sun, a Salk Institute postdoc in root biology and previous winner of the 2022 hackathon.

With over $20,000 in cash and resource prizes, first-place winner The Local Basket will receive $5,000 cash as seed money to develop their business. The second and third-place winners received cash prizes as well. Besides in-kind business services through the Small Business Development Corporation, all three finalists are accepted into the Aquillius Ventures Catalyst program, a startup incubator.  

The three-day Escondido AgX Startup Hackathon kicked off on Thursday, March 7 at Escondido’s Churchill House to an audience that consisted of a cross-section of farmers, researchers, business and technology leaders, investors and community organizations. Following a welcome reception, a panel of speakers highlighted why agriculture innovation and why here that included Pedro Cardenas of the Escondido Economic Development Department, farmer and patent attorney Kevin Buckley of Torrey Pines Law Group, Salk Institute executive director of the Harnessing Plant Initiative Wolfgang Busch, technology translation partner Matt Ferry of Morrison Foerster, general partner of Aquillius Ventures MyPhuong Le, and Vallie Gilley, executive director of Feeding the Soul/One Kitchen Collaborative. Following the opening, attendees 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 EDCO, Grangetto’s Farm and Garden Supply, Mercato, Seacomp and FourFin Creative. 

On Saturday, March 9, the teams pitched their idea and received feedback from a panel of industry judges including Eddie Grangetto, past hackathon winner and avocado farmer, Leah Villegas, managing partner of Aquillius Ventures, Kevin Buckley of Torrey Pines Law Group, and Venkatarama Pegadaraju, an agri-bio executive and startup advisor.

Community leaders and companies supported the event through sponsorship that enabled prizes for the winning teams.

“Escondido AgX is a key initiative for economic growth in the City of Escondido, and the start-up hackathon supports and encourages entrepreneurs who are addressing some of the big challenges facing the agriculture industry,” says Jennifer Schoeneck, Director of Economic Development for the City of Escondido. “Escondido is a part of the solution, creating an environment where innovators in this space can thrive.”

Join the Escondido AgX community at the next event on April 23, 2024 at the Escondido AgX Gathering



 About Escondido

Incorporated in 1888, Escondido is a safe, clean, and efficiently managed city of nearly 150,000 residents in San Diego County.  Escondido is home to a growing number of businesses and a wide range of cultural, educational, healthcare, tourism, and recreation amenities, making the city the ideal destination in which to live, work and play. https://escondido.org/

About Fresh Brewed Tech

Founded in 2018 by investor and community organizer Neal Bloom, Fresh Brewed Tech is a media company that aims to amplify San Diego’s vibrant and innovative tech ecosystem through multiple channels including a blog, podcast and events. By supporting and highlighting the founders, talent and companies throughout San Diego’s diverse tech community, Fresh Brewed aims to encourage economic and job growth and a better quality of life for the region. https://freshbrewedtech.com/


For further information and questions, contact Neal Bloom at neal at freshbrewedtech.com.



Selected Photo Gallery (by Sarah Schlosberg) – full gallery here

Sponsors and Partners
Opening speaker Wolfgang Busch of Salk Institute's Harnessing Plants Initiative
1st Place The Local Basket
2nd Place Fieldwise
3rd Place Sunergy
Orchard Oasis team lead Brian Laugher
Sunergy's sun-on-demand device
Founders of Flok22, a local networking tech startup
The Local Basket prototype



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