The UAT Forum “Speaker Series”, Episode 1: John Matthesen, Beating The System – Can Technology Improve Our Food?


“Learn By Doing.” – John Matthesen, the motto at Rodgers Ranch Urban Farm and Teaching Gardens

Before John started Rodgers Ranch Urban Farm and Teaching Gardens, he was part of the startup teams for not one, but two zero-to-IPO companies (Sybase and Commerce One).

Most recently he has been an entrepreneur mentor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business for the past ten years and is now focusing in Ag-Tech and Food-Tech projects. In order to get more deeply involved in the food industry, he started his own urban farm here in the Bay Area, and is now a professor of Urban Farming and Farm-to-Table in the Culinary Department at Diablo Valley College.

In the first episode of The UAT Forum “Speaker Series”, we cover a range of topics: thoughts on vertical farming, low tech vs. high tech, urban agriculture skepticism, and urban agtech startup ideas to name just a few!

Check it out below!

Moderated by Anthony Krumeich
Special thanks to ECO-SYSTM for hosting The UAT Forum!
Connect with John Matthesen at:

Show Notes

  • Who’s in the audience? Ag-related professionals 50%, Hardware techies 50%, Software techies 80%, Academia – Only two individuals!
  • Thoughts on -ponic technologies and vertical farming [11:00]
  • Why John moved to agtech [13:00]
  • A brief history of agriculture [15:00]
  • John uses his farm as a laboratory for technology and offers his farm to budding entrepreneurs to use [18:00]
  • John’s opinion of soil vs non-soil agriculture [19:20]
  • There’s a lot to learn in indoor farming [23:45]
  • Comments on the Johns Hopkins urban ag literature review and Signing Frogs Farm/Paul Kaiser (earns $100k topline per acre) [25:00]
  • Why a teaching farm? [27:00]
  • Bio-intensive farming [32:45]
  • Law AB 1826 [35:00]
  • What is the role of high-tech and low-tech [36:00]
  • Where’s the clearest gain to be made? Time management, clock scheduling for irrigation [37:00]
  • What can a farmer do with data? Could you just make a smart-phone do these 5 things. [42:00]
  • Questions from the audience [48:00]

Questions from the audience:

  • How does growing indoors affect the quality of a plant?
  • Small farms are willing to share their means and methods, how is this different from a startup?
  • Will companies be less inclined to share?
  • Can an indoor-farmer market their crops as made-to-order crops?
  • Low hanging fruit to analyze nutrients of food
  • Are you finding it easy to sell are of your crops?
  • How much food per square foot?
  • What is John’s approach to pest management?
  • How much of permaculture has been designed into your farm?
  • Do you have any bees? Have you experienced what is being talked about in the news?
  • Does wi-fi affect the bees?
  • Have you heard of imperfect produce?
  • How are urban farmers treated differently in the eyes of the government?
  • What’s a good delineation between geography and appropriate technologies?
  • Resources of how to start an urban farm
  • Where do you get your seeds?
  • What are your thoughts on loss of seeds and over-use of glyphosades



  1. Paul Osepa on 2017-01-26 at 02:36

    Is the presentation which John Matthesen showed available on the urbanagtech site?

    • Adrian on 2017-02-02 at 19:17

      Hi Paul, It is not. Though we can message him to see if he is open to sharing his presentation with us. Good question! -Adrian

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