Agtech Accelerator Radicle Recruits Industry Vets to Mentor Startups

Former Sapphire Energy CEO Jason Pyle is one of four agricultural technology veterans who have agreed to advise the startups taking root at Radicle, the San Diego-based accelerator focused on agricultural and food tech ventures.

Radicle named Pyle, who is now the CEO of BaseHealth, a Silicon Valley healthtech developer of analytic software, as a venture partner in a statement released last week. The agtech accelerator also named Paul Zorner, CEO of Locus Agricultural Solutions; Sam Fiorello, COO of the Danforth Plant Science Center; and agribusiness veteran Tom Urban as venture partners.

Pyle was unavailable last week to discuss his role at Radicle. But managing partner and CEO Kirk Haney said in a phone interview that the venture partners’ role “is to help us mentor these early stage ventures to success.”

Jason Pyle

Pyle came to prominence in San Diego as the founding CEO of Sapphire Energy, an industrial biotech that set out to advance technology for extracting crude oil from algae. Sapphire raised at least $321 million from investors that included Arch Venture Partners, the Wellcome Trust, Arrowpoint Partners, Monsanto Growth Ventures, and Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment fund. Pyle left Sapphire in 2012, as it became apparent that the oil industry’s use of fracking was undermining the economic basis for developing algae-based gasoline and other biofuels.

Under Jamie Levine, who stepped in as CEO in 2014, Sapphire Energy is now focused on developing algae-based products for health and nutrition.

Haney, who was CEO of the San Diego biofuels crop company SG Biofuels, observed that many cleantech veterans who were focused on energy have shifted their focus in recent years to agtech. Advances in plant genomics and industrial biotechnology have made the sector ripe with opportunities, Haney said.

Radicle, as Xconomy’s Frank Vinluan explained last June, is a virtual accelerator program intended to … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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