August 6, 2009
YottaMark's Tech Goes Back To The Farm
Elliot Grant started YottaMark Inc. in 2005 with an idea to
prevent counterfeiting that had become rampant in industries such
as pharmaceuticals, electronics and other areas.
Based on Grant's experience as a former executive at Portola
Packaging Inc., YottaMark started selling a product for easily
labeling and identifying the authenticity of such products.
However, the September 2006 outbreak of E. coli in spinach and
other subsequent food scares convinced Grant to create a solution
for a completely different industry: produce, which has often been
difficult to identify because of the maze of producers, suppliers
and distributors of many food products.
"He realized he could speed the response time for food recalls but
also connect consumers to farmers," said YottaMark Chief Executive
Scott Carr. The result was HarvestMark, a computerized labeling
system for identifying the source and other details of
The HarvestMark label includes a bar code that can be printed on a
bag of lettuce or attached as a sticker to a single item, such as a
watermelon. The company integrates with existing packaging
suppliers so that virtually no new technology is needed in the
farming and harvesting process.
YottaMark last raised $10 million in Series B financing from ATA
Ventures, Thomvest and Granite Ventures in July 2008. The company
raised unspecified Series A financing in 2005.
The service is now used on dozens of produce brands and thousands
of farms, and those numbers are expected to double by the first
quarter of 2010, Carr said. Since virtually all producers are
already using stickers or packaging for their produce, the cost to
add HarvestMark is minimal, Carr said.
"We got our boots dirty and hung out with crews in the fields and
gone to packing houses to figure out how to make it easy to
deploy," Carr said. Using the bar code, anyone can trace the origin
of produce to the original producer and get detailed data, down to
the specific location within a particular farm. The producer can
decide how much information to make public.
Congress has discussed passing laws to require identification of
the origin of food, but YottaMark's technology could answer some of
those concerns. "We're a tool to help speed the investigation of
food safety incidents," Carr said.
This will not only help identify the source of dangerous products,
but also help supermarkets in being able to quickly tell customers
that their stores are not affected by a certain recall.