Jan 12, 2022
Soli Organic announces seed genetics partnership with Rutgers

Soli Organic Inc., a soil-based, controlled environment agriculture company delivering 100% USDA certified organic produce to more than 20,000 retail stores nationwide, announced Jan. 12 two partnerships that will enhance the company’s cost advantage, further improve unit economics and support the continued development of the company’s consumer brand.

“Soli Organic is relentless in our pursuit of technologies and partnerships that support our vision to offer our retailer partners and consumers nationwide a variety of nutrient-dense, differentiated fresh products in a manner that maximizes profitability while minimizing environmental impact,” Tessa Pocock, chief science officer of Soli Organic, said in a news release. “Our cost advantage is rooted in superior unit economics tied to growing science and operational know-how – our ‘grow-how.’ The deep expertise and insights offered by the cutting-edge technologists at Koidra and the team at Rutgers University will help us further enhance this cost advantage over time. As a result, we continue to be well-positioned to build on our recent market growth and financial performance, keeping our organic produce affordable for consumers nationwide.”

Through a new multi-year partnership, Soli Organic will work with leading global plant breeding experts at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences to select and advance the next generation of commercial organic, indoor-grown produce over the next five years. Through this collaboration, Soli Organic and Rutgers experts will use state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation to analyze produce seed genetics and identify and further optimize flavor, aroma, nutrition and yield traits for indoor cultivation. In addition, the partners will explore opportunities to bring to market new types of produce that, while not feasible for commercial organic outdoor cultivation, may offer ideal flavor, nutrition and yield characteristics and can be grown organically indoors.

“Of the over 400,000 plant species on the planet, we consume less than 100. We have not even scratched the surface of the different flavors and textures of plants. What will be key to a sustainable future is identifying plants that offer consumers the highest nutrient density combined with flavor, texture and ‘shelf appeal’ and the lowest possible environmental impact,” said James (Jim) Simon, director of the Rutgers New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Program. “Our research and partnership with Soli Organic is an important step in identifying applications for cost-efficient indoor plant growth, with the intention of bringing products from breeding concept to produce aisles over the next five years.”

Soli Organic is also adopting advanced technologies based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), which will allow its indoor farms to run autonomously. These technologies do not replace human growers but rather elevate the complementary strengths of humans and machines. Soli Organic is partnering with AI and Internet of Things (IoT) company Koidra to enable growers to make data-driven decisions using state-of-the-art machine learning.

Ken Tran, Chief Technology Officer of Koidra, brings years of world-leading AI and ML experience, which he has translated to horticultural settings. Under Ken’s leadership and collaboration with plant scientists and growers, Koidra’s AI and Internet of Things approach won the 2018 and the first phase of the 2021 Autonomous International Greenhouse Challenge organized by Wageningen University in the Netherlands. In the competition setting, Koidra’s sensing, data collection and AI crop-based predictive algorithms were able to increase yields, profitability, consistency, predictability and resource use efficiency more than the most expert growers on the planet.

“As the CEA sector continues to grow and production capacities expand, we couldn’t be prouder at Koidra to be working with an industry leader like Soli Organic to improve yields and resource use efficiencies,” said Ken Tran, Chief Technology Officer of Koidra, Inc. “We’re confident that our digital crop monitoring platforms and AI-based climate control technologies, combined with Soli Organic’s decades of experience growing high-quality organic produce, will significantly enhance the company’s ability to provide affordable and sustainably produced indoor-grown produce to consumers everywhere.”

Founded in 1989 as Shenandoah Growers Inc., Soli Organic Inc. is the leading grower and marketer of fresh organic culinary herbs in the United States, providing sustainable, USDA certified organic, regionally grown produce to retailers coast-to-coast.

The Rockingham, Virginia-based company has developed the nation’s largest commercial indoor organic, soil-based growing system and continues to redefine how to bring fresh, organic, and sustainably farmed produce to market – operating across a nationally integrated platform of farms, production, and logistics facilities.

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