Why No Fast Track for Cosmic Crisp?

Seattle agriculture startup Phytelligence sharply cuts the time it takes to grow trees, but what's happening with the next big apple is complicated.

This article appears in print in the January 2018 issue, as part of our feature story on Seattle agriculture startup Phytelligence. Read that story here. Click here for a free subscription.

Since Phytelligence can greatly slash the time it takes to grow trees, why isn’t it playing a part in Cosmic Crisp, one of the biggest rollouts in the history of the Washington state apple industry [Seattle Business, November 2017]?

The Cosmic Crisp apple — a Washington State University-developed product that has longer shelf life, is juicier than the popular Honeycrisp variety and doesn’t brown as easily once cut — has the potential to add millions of dollars in orders for Phytelligence. 

Washington growers are so bullish on the new apple that they have ordered an unprecedented 11 million trees in the next two years from nurseries.

Some growers aren’t sure they’ll get all the Cosmic Crisp trees they’ve ordered and have turned to Phytelligence, but the WSU spinout has had to turn away potential millions in Cosmic Crisp orders because WSU hasn’t given Phytelligence a license yet, despite issuing the company a propagation option in 2012.

WSU later granted exclusive Cosmic Crisp propagation rights to Proprietary Variety Management in Yakima. How can WSU give an “exclusive” license after it had already given a propagation option to Phytelligence?

This question is the crux of a dispute Phytelligence is negotiating with WSU’s Office of Commercialization and hopes to settle soon.

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