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Incubator Spotlight: TRIC Robotics

Adam Stager stands on a stage, wearing a blue button-up shirt and blazer and holding a microphone. He stands in front of a projected slideshow which shows the words "$84Bn spent on chemicals to control pests and disease" in white font over a picture of strawberries.
TRIC Robotics founder and CEO Adam Stager pitching his startup at the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center's 2022 AngelCon.

TRIC Robotics is revolutionizing pest control, using ultraviolet light in place of chemical pesticides to help farmers control pests and disease.

“You can think of our solution like a giant Roomba,” said TRIC Robotics founder and CEO Adam Stager. “It’s tractor scale, and it carries these lights up and down the rows to control the pests.”

The idea for TRIC Robotics originated while Stager was pursuing his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware. While in school, Stager met United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists who had spent ten years researching ultraviolet light as a substitute for chemical pesticides. 

Stager eventually decided to turn the innovation into a business — but although the research that inspired TRIC Robotics originated in Delaware, Stager realized his startup might be more successful in California.

California is largely recognized as the leading contributor to United States agriculture, producing 75% of the nation’s fruits and nuts, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture

California also grows 90% of strawberries in the United States, so in 2021, Stager drove across the country to bring TRIC Robotics to West Coast strawberry farms.  

Once in California, Stager discovered the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Incubator, a two year program designed to help early-stage startups develop into financially stable, scalable businesses. The Incubator provides participating startups with mentorship, networking opportunities and resources that help facilitate smarter, faster growth.

TRIC Robotics officially joined the Incubator in August 2021.

The Incubator helped Stager grow his professional network after coming to California, he said. The program also connected Stager with pitch competitions, as well as mentors who helped prepare him to compete.

In 2022, TRIC Robotics enjoyed a notable winning streak, earning the Audience Choice Award at the Central Coast Innovation Awards, the Central Coast Economic Forecast and AngelCon.

AngelCon is an annual competition, hosted by the Cal Poly CIE Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where tech-driven Central Coast startups compete to win $100,000 in equity backed funding. 

“AngelCon was a great experience for us,” Stager said. “The Incubator really prepared us so that we could get into AngelCon and be really competitive, and once we got there, the mentors really helped us prepare for a round of funding.”

The Incubator program is also associated with Cal Poly, whose College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) is the international leader in undergraduate agriculture education. Stager said he has leveraged this resource, bringing high-achieving CAFES students onto the TRIC Robotics team.

Stager said participating in the Incubator also introduced him to a community of fellow entrepreneurs, many of which are working in a similar industry. He is able to collaborate and engage with other Incubator participants and learn from their experience. 

“It can be a lonely journey of being an entrepreneur, but being a part of the Incubator not only gives you access to resources, mentors and classes that teach you how to take the next steps in your startup, but it’s also a great forum for communicating with other founders,” he said.

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