Category: Agribusiness

Ag-tech firm GeoVisual Analytics lands seed funding

BOULDER — Agriculture-technology company GeoVisual Analytics announced Wednesday that it has raised a new seed round of funding led by AI Capital of Denver.

The specific amount of the funding was not disclosed, though chief marketing officer Carl Kalin indicated that it’s between $500,000 and $1 million, typical of many seed rounds. Taylor Farms of Salinas, Calif., and SVG Partners of Los Gatos, Calif., also participated in the round.

Boulder-based GeoVisual, founded in 2010, specializes in analytics of imagery and other big data sources to aid in monitoring and managing activities on Earth’s surface. On the precision ag side, that means using planes, drones and on-ground cameras to help farmers better understand what is going on in their fields and manage resources related to crop production. On the forestry side, the company analyzes satellite imagery to provide information about what is happening on the ground.

NASA funded the company’s development of its OnSight mobile sensing platform and its Computer Learning Image Processor platform.

Kalin said the new funding will help the three-person company soon add three more employees — two in Boulder and one at its Salinas, Calif., office. But he added that the company could at least double again next year as it targets a $5 million to $10 million Series A round of funding.

GeoVisual last year participated in the Thrive Accelerator in Salinas that is run by SVG and Forbes magazine and aims to connect startups with food-industry giants to deploy and hone their technologies.

FAA’s new drone rules to ease burdens on commercial operators

The Federal Aviation Administration this week issued new rules that will become effective in August, easing some regulations for operators of drones used commercially.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta called these new rules a “first step,” as regulators work on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.

Tom Dougherty

Tom Dougherty

Tom Dougherty, an attorney with Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP in Denver, said the new rules largely will replace the FAA’s Section 333 Exemption and Certificate of Waiver or Authorization processes for obtaining approval for commercial small unmanned aircraft operations.

Chief among the changes is elimination of the requirement that the operator have an FAA airman’s certificate, or pilot’s license. Given the time and expense associated with obtaining a pilot’s license, this requirement was a barrier to entry for many commercial operators, Dougherty explained.

Now, an operator must hold a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate with a sUAS (small unmanned aircraft systems) rating, which can be obtained by passing an FAA-approved aeronautical knowledge test, or by holding a current pilot certificate and completing an FAA-approved sUAS online training course.

The aeronautical knowledge test will be available through FAA-approved knowledge test centers around the country on the effective date of the final rules, and the online training for current pilots will be available at

Other aspects of the final rules include:

• Use of a visual observer is no longer required, but is still advised;

• Drone operations from a moving vehicle are permitted in sparsely populated areas;

• Drone operations 400 feet above ground level are permitted if the drone remains within a 400-foot radius of a structure and no higher than 400 feet above the structure;

• External loads are allowed if the load being carried is securely attached and does not adversely affect the flight performance of the drone;

• And intrastate transportation of property is allowed, but may not be conducted from a moving vehicle.

Many existing rules remain in place, Dougherty said. Commercial drones must still remain clear of other aircraft and not be operated in a careless or reckless manner. They must weigh less than 55 pounds including payload. Drones must remain at or below 400 feet above ground level; fly no faster than 100 mph; operate within certain visibility and cloud clearance requirements; and be subjected to a preflight safety check by the operator.

13 local firms named to Colorado OEDIT’s ‘Companies to Watch’ list

DENVER — Nine companies based in the Boulder Valley and four in Northern Colorado are among the 50 Colorado Companies to Watch for 2016 that were announced Friday evening.

Seven of the companies are based in Boulder: Agribotix Inc., Astra LLC, Avid4 Adventure Inc., Purely Elizabeth, Quinn Snacks, SnapEngage and Kindara Inc.

Sustainable Supply in Broomfield and Liqid Inc. in Lafayette made the list.

Companies in Northern Colorado include Canyon Bakehouse and Good Day Pharmacy in Loveland, CPP Inc. in Fort Collins and All Phase Restoration in Windsor.

The 50 winning firms are second-stage companies. They were honored for innovation and economic impact. Chosen from more than 1,000 nominations, the winners represent a range of industries and are recognized for their success and potential for growth, community involvement, philanthropy and corporate culture.

In 2015, this year’s winners employed 1,913 full-time employees and are expecting to create 380 new jobs in 2016. They combined for $503 million in revenue in 2015 and are expected to earn $679.9 million in 2016.

The awards program was launched in 2009 by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in conjunction with the Edward Lowe Foundation and community partners from across Colorado.

BizWest 500 highlights largest, fastest-growing companies

Purchase this new publication by clicking BizWest 500. For a preview of the content, here’s the first page.

Welcome to the BizWest 500, an ambitious undertaking that highlights the largest or fastest-growing companies throughout the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado (and the highest-paid executives).

This special edition of BizWest aggregates content that previously had been published over a span of many months, but it also represents a dramatic increase in the data that we publish on the region’s largest private- and public-sector employers.

In these pages, you’ll find:

• The Mercury 100 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the Boulder Valley, along with five profiles of interesting companies on the list.

• The Mercury 100 list of the fastest-growing private companies in Northern Colorado, along with five profiles of interesting companies on the list.

• A list of the Top 25 highest-paid executives of public companies.

• A list of the 50 largest public-sector employers, including municipalities, counties, universities, federal laboratories, etc.

• A vastly expanded list of the region’s largest employers — 200 companies listed, compared with 50 published last year.

• A list of the largest publicly traded companies based in our region. (We’ve stretched this a bit, opting to include a handful of companies that have shifted their headquarters to the Denver area or other nearby cities, but which retain a significant presence in our region.)

All told, these lists represent the largest number of ranked lists we’ve ever published in one issue, outside of our annual Book of Lists publication.

Most companies cited in these lists responded to our surveys. Others are included based on BizWest estimates, reports by economic-development agencies, news accounts or other sources. Data for the public companies and highest-paid executives lists came entirely from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

This endeavor represents many months of work by our staff, especially our chief researcher, Chad Collins. As with any undertaking of this magnitude, errors and omissions are likely. In particular, our lists of the largest private-sector and public-sector employers will continue to be refined and expanded. If you’d like to see your company included — or if you spot a mistake or other omission — please contact Chad at

It should be noted that we’ve opted to include aggregated numbers for some employers, such as major health systems, as well as numbers for some of their constituent institutions, i.e., a hospital within the system.

If you have a suggestion for the BizWest 500 next year, please feel free to contact me at the number below.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or

Surna shrinks 1Q loss

BOULDER – Cannabis-tech firm Surna Inc. (OTCQB: SRNA) on Monday reported a first-quarter net loss of $746,214, shaving that figure nearly in half from the same period a year ago as the young company starts to see sales increase exponentially.

The loss amounted to 1 cent per share and was down from a loss of $1.4 million for the first quarter of 2015.

Revenue for the company was $2.5 million, up from $819,063 a year earlier.

Boulder-based Surna makes products that help monitor, control and address the energy and resource use of indoor cannabis cultivation facilities.

Company officials, in their earnings report stated that, in addition to the revenue growth, operating expenses decreased significantly, thanks in part to one of the company’s main products moving out of the research and development phase and into production.

During the quarter, the company secured a $725,000 contract with a Las Vegas cultivator and also received four design patents for its technology. Cash on hand for the company, as of March 31, stood at $1.1 million, up from $331,000 at the end of December.

Report: Commercial drone use to generate $8.7B in revenue by 2025

BOULDER — Revenue generated by the global commercial use of drones will reach $8.7 billion by 2025, according to a report released Monday by Boulder-based Tractica LLC.

Drones — known as small unmanned aerial vehicles or systems — are gaining significant traction in a variety of industries, including film and media, oil and gas, insurance, public safety and agriculture. While the number of drones being shipped for commercial markets is often the most visible trend, the largest revenue opportunity in the sector lies in the various services that these drones will enable, said Clint Wheelock, founder and managing director of Tractica, a market-intelligence, research and consulting firm.

According to the report, by the end of the next decade, annual revenue from drone-enabled services will be more than double the revenue from sales of commercial drone hardware units themselves.

The market-intelligence firm forecasts that global commercial UAV services revenue will grow from $170 million in 2015 to $8.7 billion by 2025.  The largest service applications will be filming and entertainment, mapping, aerial assessment and prospecting, but smaller opportunities for drone services will also include disaster relief, early-warning systems, data collection and analytics, environmental monitoring and package delivery.

“Commercial drone operators around the world are quickly realizing the potential for UAVs to be harnessed for a variety of services in a more efficient manner than can be achieved using conventional means such as satellites or aircraft,” Wheelock said. “Most commercial applications for drones are related to aerial imaging or data analysis, taking advantage of low-cost components and ever-increasing sensor capabilities.”

Wheelock adds that, while regulatory and business barriers remain to the more widespread use of drones for commercial purposes, the path ahead is becoming steadily clearer as business models and policy frameworks continue to be refined in countries around the world.

Tractica’s report, “Drones for Commercial Applications,” examines the market trends and technology issues surrounding the commercial drone industry and analyzes the drivers and inhibitors of market development, the regulatory landscape, business models and supply-chain considerations. The report includes a 10-year forecast for drone hardware unit shipments and revenue, segmented by industry, airframe type and world region, in addition to drone-enabled services by application area.  An executive summary of the report is available for free download on the firm’s website,

Wheelock previously founded Pike Research LLC, a clean-tech market intelligence and research firm in Boulder that in 2012 was acquired by Chicago-based Navigant Consulting Inc. (NYSE: NCI) for an undisclosed amount.

SiVEC Biotechnologies wins top prize at CSU Collegiate Challenge

FORT COLLINS – SiVEC Biotechnologies, a startup founded by Colorado State University graduate student Lyndsey Linke, took home the $20,000 top prize from the CSU Collegiate Challenge business pitch competition on Wednesday night.

Linke out-pitched outpitched 13 other startups from five states that were competing in the challenge.

In addition to the cash prize, SiVEC also earns an entry into a preliminary round of the $250,000 Capital Championship, which was formerly known as the CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge. The startup also earned an automatic interview for the Boulder-based Boomtown startup accelerator, a year of services from AllProWebTools and public relations firm Meld Strategy + Communications and various in-kind legal services.

SiVEC formed out of Link’s work as a doctoral student at CSU and her post-doctoral research in clinical sciences. The company is developing aerosol-based antiviral products for the rapid prevention of respiratory diseases in commercial poultry.

“The validation that you’re working toward something that can have an impact is really meaningful,” Linke said in a release from CSU. “To take it a step further and receive a prize and money, and people who believe in the technology and want to see it move forward, is even more exciting.”

Another CSU startup, IgnoreU, took home second place and $5,000. The company, founded by CSU MBA grad Carmelo Mannino and computer science grad Brandon Dewey, makes a mobile app that acts as a spam filter for people’s social media feeds.

Judges for the challenge included Cliintel Capital Group CEO Rich Batenberg, Zayo Group chief operations officer Matt Erickson, Innosphere CEO Mike Freeman, Thrive on Group CEO Sue Kunz, and angel investor and Epicentral Coworking cofounder Lisa Tessarowicz.

But it wasn’t just the judges whom SiVEC won over. The company also took home the People’s Choice Award voted on by audience members.

Hemp industry to get down to business at weekend expo

LOVELAND – Boosting the business side of hemp – while reinforcing the message about what it is and what it isn’t – is the focus of this weekend’s 2016 NoCo Hemp Expo at The Ranch Events Complex in Loveland.

Movers and shakers in the hemp industry will drive home the versatility of the plant, make pitches to investors and display a multitude of wares to consumers – all while pounding home the mantra that hemp isn’t pot, it won’t get you high, but it could pump billions of dollars into the economy.

“Our emphasis is on the non-psychoactive parts of the cannabis plant,” said event organizer Morris Beegle, owner of Loveland-based Colorado Hemp Co. “This is nothing to do with recreational marijuana. It’s all about industrial and nutritional values of hemp. We want to show how it can be used in building materials, bioplastics, paper, foods, body-care products, nanoparticles, batteries, clothing and so much more. The hemp plant can be utilized in thousands of applications.”

In its third year, the expo started with a gathering at a 300-seat bar in Windsor in 2014. It moved to a 13,000-square-foot venue at The Ranch with 74 vendors last year. This year’s version, at the Ranch’s First National Bank Building, will occupy 36,000 square feet and include 130 vendors, including such local firms as Loveland-based Elite Botanicals and Loveland Molecular Labs.

“We really want to organize as an industry and move this thing forward globally,” Beegle said.

The expo will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Friday’s session will be an “industry day,” Beegle said, with a focus on law, banking, processing, seed certification, branding, marketing, science and genetics. Networking for growers, manufacturers and investors will be included.

Saturday’s session will be geared to the general public, he said, with spotlights on farming, health, wellness, nutrition, varied consumer goods and even cooking with hemp.

“We want to familiarize the general public with hemp and grow beyond the choir that has built up over the last several decades,” Beegle said. “Marijuana has been big news in Colorado, but we want to separate out the message and say, ‘Hey, there’s a difference here, and this crop should never have been illegal because it’s been a component for 10,000 years.’ But since Amendment 64 passed, we’ve got a head start on the rest of the country in Colorado.

“We’ll be at the forefront of technology and innovation,” he said, “and a lot of those technological innovations along the Front Range will transfer over to our industry.”

Speakers and panels will advocate for legislation in Congress to clear up what Beegle described as a situation that’s “very murky at the federal level as to whether it is or isn’t legal.” The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states that wanted to put hemp regulations in place to start doing test plots, he said, but further congressional action has gotten snagged in election-year politics despite bipartisan support.

Admission to the event is $20 for Saturday – or $25 at the door. Admission for both days is $60, or $70 at the door. A $100 ticket for Saturday includes a bag full of hemp-based products.

More information, ticketing and live streaming of the event are online at

GMO debate to highlight Food and Ag Summit

LOVELAND — An afternoon debate over genetically modified organisms, their safety and labeling will be among the features of BizWest’s inaugural Food and Ag Summit, to be held March 30 in Loveland.

The all-day event will bring together representatives of Colorado’s agriculture and natural-foods organizations and companies to offer the latest insights affecting the future of the food and agriculture sectors. The summit, to be held at The Ranch’s First National Bank building, 5280 Arena Circle, will offer information on new technologies and trends, networking with producers and providers, and discussion on such topics as the Food Safety Modernization Act, finding the right people at the right price, financing, global trade, regenerative agriculture and immigration issues.

Debating the hot-button issue of GMOs will be CSU professor Patrick Byrne, Colorado Corn Growers Association board president Dave Eckhart, Compass Natural Marketing owner Steve Hoffman and Rebekah Lyle, director of marketing for White Wave’s Silk plant-based foods and beverages.

Registration for $49 can be made online. Admission will cost $59 at the door.

Contact Sandy Powell at 970-232-3144 or for information about sponsorship, vendor booths and corporate tables.

Submissions sought for Mercury 100 fastest-growing companies list

BizWest is seeking submissions for its Mercury 100 lists of fastest-growing private companies in the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado. The Boulder Valley list will include companies based in Boulder and Broomfield counties, while the Northern Colorado list will include companies in Larimer and Weld counties. Both lists will rank companies based on two-year revenue growth.

To be included, companies:

• Must be headquartered in the Boulder Valley or Northern Colorado (Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer or Weld counties).

• Must be privately held.

• Must include revenue for each of the past three years (Each year’s revenues must include a full 12 months).

Companies in both lists will be divided into five “flights” based on revenue ranges. Rankings will be revealed at two Mercury 100 celebrations. The Northern Colorado event is scheduled for May 11 at McWhinney, 1880 Fall River Drive, in Loveland. The Boulder Valley program is May 25 at the Lionsgate Event Center at 1055 S. 112th St. in Lafayette.

To be considered for the Mercury 100 programs, companies can submit data here. Deadline for submission is March 9.