Specialty Crops

What are Specialty Crops

Specialty crops are defined in law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.” This definition, although more exact than previous legal definitions, leaves a certain amount of latitude in interpretation. Fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, nursery crops and floricultural crops are all considered to be horticultural crops. Regardless, the specific mention of these crop groups means that plants so classified automatically qualify as specialty crops. Where interpretation is needed is in which plants, not specifically mentioned in legislation, can be classified as horticulture (sic) crops.

Examples for Startups working on Specialty Crops


Semios spent the last few years building out its automated, remotely controlled climate, insect, and disease monitoring and treatment sensor networks with a laser-like focus on orchard and nursery crops out west. Overcoming the rural broadband issues that plague many such networked IoT offerings in ag meant embracing cellular as its main data transmission signal, and the fact that the network of interconnected canopy sensors and weather stations can monitor for such a wide array of agronomic issues, make Semios an outfit to watch in specialty markets as we turn to the summer months ahead.



Yara is known internationally as a fertilizer company, but the group has some really interesting applications of technology for specialty and row crop growers. On the specialty side is the companies’ Yara Water Solution IoT-network for irrigation scheduling. At the heart of Yara’s platform are the Yara Water Sensors, which measure the minuscule changes in a plant leaf’s turgor pressure – which Yara describes as the water “blood pressure” of the plant. The sensors operate much like the blood-pressure-testing arm cuff at most local drug stores, measuring the pressure caused by fluid pushing against the cell wall of plant cells. Data is processed and visualized in Yara’s MyYara “engagement portal,” and the subsequent validated and crop-specific irrigation recommendations are accessible via web-based software.




A software outfit out of Yuma, AZ, that got its feet wet in the defense tech sector before pivoting to ag, CropTrak looks to have found a nice niche in helping specialty growers satisfy food processor traceability and sustainability reporting requirements. As we all know, in specialty markets traceability and sustainability are two incredibly important initiatives for the entire production chain to embrace, and until blockchain delivers on its promise to revolutionize produce tracking, growers need tools like CropTrak to keep wholesalers happy. Del Monte Foods, one of the largest processing tomatoes growers in the U.S., has signed on to use CropTrak’s in-field, digital data collection software to connect processing and warehouse systems in order to actualize data as a support for up-the-chain reporting, traceability, and compliance needs.



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