FoA 270: Produce Technology and Digitizing Taste


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PMA Takes on Tech: Aromyx:

Today's two part episode starts off with a higher-level picture of the innovations in produce with Vonnie Estes, vice president of technology for the Produce Marketing Association. Then we’ll drill deeper into one aspect of food quality, arguably the most important aspect of food quality: flavor. For that we’ll talk to Josh Silverman, CEO of Aromyx, a company that is digitizing taste and smell.

I was able to sit down with Vonnie Estes and capture some valuable insights about the challenges and opportunities of bringing technology to the produce industry, the role of indoor agriculture in fresh produce, alternative funding models for companies that want to serve some of these niches, and the digitization of quality and of supply chains, which will of course lead us into part two with Josh.

Vonnie Estes is the VP of Technology at the Produce Marketing Association. She has held leadership positions at prominent companies including DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta along with start-ups including DNAP, Emergent Genetics, and Caribou Biosciences. Vonnie has a BS in Horticulture from New Mexico State and a Masters in Plant Pathology from UC Davis.

Also joining me is Aromyx CEO Josh Silverman. Josh has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, and is a serial entrepreneur. He has been the founder of 5 different biotech companies, including some in the new protein ingredient space. It was through these experiences of trying to bring sustainable foods and ingredients to the market that he realized flavor is most important, but was also really subjective and nearly impossible to predict. So he joined Aromyx, and the company just recently a $10 million series A round with investors that included the Rabobank Food & Agri Innovation Fund.

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