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HomeSTARTUPSAgriculture startup Phytelligence cuts staff as CEO and co-founder depart

Agriculture startup Phytelligence cuts staff as CEO and co-founder depart

agriculture startup phytelligence cuts staff as ceo and co founder depart
The “Cosmic Crisp” apple is slated for grocery store delivery in 2019. (Photo via CosmicCrisp.cm)

Seattle-based agriculture technology startup Phytelligence has cut an unspecified number of jobs and shaken up its leadership, GeekWire has learned.

The 7-year-old company markets a system for growing crops that it says reduces costs and harvest times. It made headlines last year due to a lawsuit over “Cosmic Crisp,” a highly-anticipated new apple variety expected to hit store shelves this year.

The company’s former CEO, Ken Hunt, has left. Co-founder and former director of operations Tyson Koepke also departed, according to his LinkedIn.

agriculture startup phytelligence cuts staff as ceo and co founder depart
Phytelligence President Glen Donald. (Phytelligence Photo)

Glen Donald, who previously served as chief business officer, is now president of Phytelligence. Donald explained the recent changes in an email to GeekWire:

Phytelligence has recently gone through a restructuring and refocusing of our core business. As a result, we have streamlined our product portfolio and our production processes. In line with this narrower focus, we have unfortunately had to eliminate a number of positions that did not align with this new direction. We look forward to continuing our work in the agricultural industry and supplying growers with fruit trees for many years to come.

The company did not say how many employees were affected or which divisions saw the greatest reductions. Around 100 employees list Phytelligence as their employer on LinkedIn. Phytelligence is based in Seattle with facilities in Pullman, Wash. and Portland, Ore.

Phytelligence spun out of Washington State University in 2012 based on technology developed by WSU professor Amit Dhingra for growing trees and other crops more efficiently. Dhingra continues to serve as the company’s chief science officer, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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The company raised $9.85 million this past July, bringing total funding to date to nearly $23 million.

Last year, Phytelligence and WSU took to the courts in a pair of lawsuits that argued over the startup’s use of the Cosmic Crisp apple variety, considered to be “the most promising and important apple of the future,” according to The New York Times. The juicy new apple, a cross between Honeycrisp and Enterprise, is known for its taste and long shelf life.

Phytelligence claimed that WSU wrongly blocked the company from commercializing Cosmic Crisp.” In its own lawsuit, WSU alleged that Phytelligence improperly sold thousands of Cosmic Crisp trees to a grower. The lawsuits are still ongoing, according to Donald.

Consumers should see Cosmic Crisp apples hit grocery store shelves at some point this year.
Source: Geek Wire

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