About Amy Wu
Amy Wu is a veteran journalist with significant international reporting and teaching experience, having worked at Time magazine, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, for the USA Today Network and has written for The New York Times, HuffPost and Wall Street Journal. She is an investigative reporter with a focus on environment and agriculture for The Poughkeepsie Journal. She was the government and agriculture reporter for The Salinas Californian / The USA Today Network based in the Salinas Valley. She has a passion for writing about intersections between gender, agriculture and innovation.
She has substantial international work experience having spent six years working in Hong Kong, widely reporting within the Asia-Pacific region including Shanghai and Singapore. She earned her Master’s degree in Journalism from Columbia University, and speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.
Wu is highly regarded in her field: she received an honorable mention in public service reporting from the George F. Gruner Awards (IRE), the best journalist award from the Organization of Chinese Americans and the DiCagno Award for the best investigative story on environmental protection or human rights from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She was a Gannett fellow for the 2016 IRE Conference, and has worked on reporting projects that employ data journalism and video including the “Freed but Forgotten” series on Prop 47 prison reform legislation. That project won the 2017 Californian Press News Association award for “Best investigative journalism,” and also took first place at the 2017 Edward R. Murrow Awards for best documentary. She also earned a grant from ICFJ to create a multimedia series “From Farms to Incubators: Telling the stories of minority women entrepreneurs in agtech in the Salinas Valley and beyond.” Amy has a passion for telling the stories of minority women and women in agtech, and writing about the intersection and transformation of agriculture and technology.
The Rise of AgTech and Incorporation of Women Entrepreneurs
The Precision Agriculture Market & AgTech industry is estimated to reach $7.8 billion by 2022 in value/size and there are tremendous opportunities to tackle the market with technological advances. As part of the TBG+Tech initiative, which leverages technology-driven and human intelligence solutions, TBG is currently working with investment partners to provide seed capital to select AgTech portfolio companies. At the same time, we are assembling an integrated AgTech System that comprises field mapping, disease & pest detection, and soil health, nitrogen level and fertilization analysis to assist farmers in increasing their yields while reducing fertilization and irrigation costs as well as provide solutions to mitigate and manage disease and pest problems before a loss in crops.
Due to the increasing demand for precision agriculture solutions, we remain deeply engaged in new trends and developments in the sector. With that in mind, I sat down with Amy Wu to find out more about how women entrepreneurs are faring in this new sector and what lessons to draw.
From Farms to Incubators (trailer)
Q&A with Amy about From Farms to Incubators
TBG: What inspired you to produce the documentary in the first place?
Amy: As a reporter in the Salinas Valley I observed the lack of women and especially minority women – women who looked like me – at conferences and meetings when it came to ag. At the same time Salinas was actively developing the Agtech sector and had a growing Center for Innovation and Technology, which houses Agtech startups. I began asking how many of these startups are launched and led by women, in particular minority women. Through extensive research and reporting I found there were a small but growing number of female innovators dedicated to Agtech. As a journalist I was inspired to tell their stories and give them a voice.
TBG: How was the recent showing of part 2? How was the panel discussion and audience reaction?
We screened the extended version on May 3 at the Maya Cinemas in Salinas. The screening was standing room only and included everyone from community leaders, the Mayor and city manager, representatives for Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, leaders from some of area’s largest agriculture companies, universities, community members and even the Girl Scouts. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive with a lot of requests to screen this and hold discussions at high schools and universities, to inspire the next generation of young innovators. Many asked what they could do to help and contribute.
TBG: What did you learn from producing the documentary — what are the key takeaways?
Documentary is a powerful medium and platform for discussion, outreach, education and knowledge exchange. For this project it has served as a vehicle for what has been eight screenings paired with panel discussions now. At the screenings audience members have a chance to connect with these women entrepreneurs and leaders in the ag and tech communities.
TBG: What are some of the key highlights from the documentary in terms of the companies profiled?
We followed four women initially and this was extended to a few new women in the extended version. Over the course of more than a year I learned that overall the women remained dedicated to Agtech and their startups. A major challenge continues to be fundraising, and whether this is because of gender, the Agtech sector or the culture of Silicon Valley as being a predominantly male dominated culture, remains to be answered or seen. Trace Genomics, AgShift both raised money and expanded their staff and opened offices. Others such as the young women from HeavyConnect left the company, one to return home and take care of her father stricken with cancer, and the other to work for Mann Packing. Le Vuong of Redmelon continues to search for partners and fundraise.
TBG: What surprised you in making this documentary?
While the topic of “minority women entrepreneurs in Agtech in the Salinas Valley” is so specific, the film has touched and resonated with everyone who has seen it from grandmothers and high schoolers to high level executives.
TBG: What did you learn overall?
There is a huge opportunity and untapped opportunity to tell the stories of women entrepreneurs in Agtech. This is a fast-growing sector driven by the challenges and needs of the agriculture industry. Also many of the women don’t even know each other exist but are hungry to connect with other women in this field, so From Farms to Incubators is working on using digital storytelling and technology to create connections and community for them.
TBG: What is the future of minority women in AgTech?
Very promising. We as humans as creatures of habit and while it takes time to change thoughts, perceptions and culture, change will occur by necessity. We are in a global economy and the U.S. population alone is becoming more diverse. The competition for talent in ag and tech is growing. The sky is the limit.