Larry Ellison And Dr. David Agus Unveil Their Hydroponic Farming Start-Up.
Larry Ellison is the founder of Oracle and the 10th-richest man on the planet, according to Forbes. Dr. David Agus is a best-selling author and physician whose clients included Steve Jobs and Sumner Redstone.
Of all the companies the two could have started together, they’ve chosen an unusual approach: a hydroponic farming start-up focused on creating more healthful food.
Their new business, Sensei, formally unveiled itself Monday afternoon, wading into an industry that has become increasingly popular among investors.
Silicon Valley Start-up Plenty raised $200 million from SoftBank’s $100 billion Vision Fund. Bowery Farming, whose vegetables are now sold in a few grocery stores in New York City, has collected money from the likes of Google’s venture arm and General Catalyst.
Sensei is focused more on wellness. While the company ultimately plans to expand into an array of businesses, its initial focus is on hydroponic farming, using software and sensors to monitor growing conditions. (Its first farm is on Lanai, the Hawaiian island of which Mr. Ellison owns roughly 98 percent.)
Sensei’s first batch of crops includes Black Trifele tomatoes and Komatsuna mustard greens, with its yardstick for production being nutrition per acre.
“So far, the conversation in agriculture has been dominated by productivity: How much food can we grow in a square foot. But scale is just part of the equation,” Dr. Agus said in a statement. “To properly nourish the world, we need to consider how nutritious that food is. This is where Sensei is focused.”
Its first customer is Hawaii, which imports the majority of its food. Sensei said that it can provide the state fresh food within 24 hours of harvesting, compared with over a week for imported vegetables.
But the company is also eager to tout its tech bona fides. Its farm runs off solar power provided by Tesla panels. And it claims to use just 10 percent of the water used in traditional farming methods.
“For so long, agriculture has been one of the least digitized industries,” Daniel Gruneberg, Sensei’s president, said in a statement. “Now, we can combine software, sensors and robotics to make giant leaps in sustainable farming and perhaps, more importantly, the quality of our food.”
— Michael de la Merced