Interview With Irving Rivera, Co-Founder & CEO at Solena

Meet Irving Rivera, CEO of Solena. In this interview, we delve into his journey and passion for addressing global agriculture challenges that fueled the birth of Solena, a company dedicated to harnessing the soil microbiome’s power.

With a mission to revolutionize agriculture by customizing solutions that enhance soil health and crop yields, Solena’s approach offers personalized biological capital, optimizing the intricate balance within each farm’s microbiome. Irving’s insights reveal a commitment to sustainable practices and a vision for Solena to shape a more resilient future for agriculture.

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Irving Rivera

tribu (T): Can you please start by sharing a bit about your professional background and what inspired you to co-found Solena?

Irving (I): I started my career in the biotech industry, developing biological solutions for agriculture. The potential to make a meaningful impact on the challenges facing global agriculture, particularly in enhancing sustainability and productivity, inspired me to co-found Solena. I discovered that farmers, and the food production industry in general, didn’t know much about soil biological fertility despite its significant impact. This drove me to start Solena, with the purpose of helping the food industry better understand their soil biological capital and providing the necessary tools to control it.

(T): Soil health is a crucial aspect of agriculture, and Solena is focused on harnessing the power of the soil microbiome. Could you provide a brief overview of what Solena does and its mission in the agriculture industry?

(I):  Solena is dedicated to harnessing the power of the soil microbiome to transform agriculture. Our aim is to create customized and innovative solutions that help farmers enhance soil health, boost crop yields, and promote sustainable farming practices. By utilizing the intricate relationships within the microbiome, we endeavor to make a positive impact on the environment and food production. We believe that the soil microbiome provides direct insight that can correlate soil with crop productivity outcomes.

(T): For our readers who might not be familiar with the term, could you explain what the microbiome is and its impact on crops? Additionally, can you elaborate on the concept of “individualized biological capital” and how it relates to your work at Solena?

(I): The microbiome is the diverse community of microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and other microbes, that live in a particular environment. In agriculture, the soil microbiome plays a vital role in nutrient cycling, disease suppression, and overall plant health. At Solena, “Individualized biological capital” refers to our unique approach of tailoring biological solutions to the specific microbiome of each farm. By understanding and optimizing the microbial communities present in the soil, we aim to maximize the biological capital that contributes to the health and productivity of crops while also promoting sustainable practices. For the first time in the history of agriculture, farmers have access to a tool that combines productivity and sustainability.

Irving (right) and part of Solena’s team in the lab

(T): Solena’s approach is to create personalized solutions for agriculture. Can you tell us which types of crops your technology is particularly effective for and how it tailors to the specific needs of these crops?

(I):  Our technology has high versatility and can be applied to various crops. We prioritize understanding the distinct requirements of each crop and customizing our solutions to address their unique needs, while also taking into account their economic requirements. Our main objective is to enhance the performance of any crop by optimizing its microbiome to support its growth and resilience. This includes row crops, fruits, and vegetables.

(T): It would be great to hear a real-world example. Could you provide a case study or an example of how Solena’s product has helped a farmer increase yields and improve the quality of their soil?

(I): Definitely. We collaborated with a potato producer for Pepsico who was struggling with soil degradation and declining yields and was under pressure to transition to more sustainable farming practices. By analyzing the soil microbiome on their farm, we identified specific microbial deficiencies. With the optimization of their input programs and customized treatment, we were able to restore a healthy balance to the soil microbiome. The result was a significant increase in potato profitability of 30%, improved soil structure, and a significant reduction in the agrichemical footprint. This demonstrates the practical impact of our personalized approach.

(T): Soil characteristics can vary greatly from one farm to another. How do you work with farmers to acquire the specific data and insights needed to improve soil health on their properties?

(I): Collaboration with farmers is at the core of our approach, Prometheus. We engage in a comprehensive soil analysis, utilizing advanced techniques such as NGS and AI to understand the unique microbial composition of their soil. This data allows us to develop personalized solutions that address the specific challenges and opportunities present on each farm. Our partnership with farmers is a continuous dialogue, ensuring that our interventions align with their goals and contribute to the long-term health of their soil.

Solena taking soil samples

(T): The technological side of Solena’s platform is intriguing. Could you share some insights into the software and data-driven aspects of your solution and how they are applied in practice?

(I): Our platform, Prometheus, is an advanced cloud-based solution that combines software and data-driven insights to optimize soil health. It utilizes state-of-the-art algorithms to analyze large sets of data related to the composition of soil microbiome, environmental conditions, and crop characteristics. This analysis helps us create personalized recommendations for farmers, guiding them on the precise application of our biological solutions. Additionally, Prometheus is designed to evolve and adapt, leveraging local laboratory infrastructure to ensure scalability and effectiveness in diverse agricultural settings.

(T): Could you give us an idea of the scale at which Solena is operating? How many hectares or farms are you currently working with, and in which countries?

(I):  Our company has undergone significant growth, and we are proud to be working with a network of 37 channel partners and customers. This has enabled us to reach hundreds of thousands of hectares and hundreds of farmers across six countries. Our presence spans three continents, including the Americas, Europe, and Africa, which reflects our commitment to making a global impact on agriculture.

(T): Entrepreneurship often comes with challenges. What has been the most challenging aspect of your journey so far, whether it’s selling to farmers, raising capital, building a team, or something else?

(I): Each stage of our entrepreneurial journey has presented unique challenges, but one that stands out is the initial phase of selling our vision to farmers. Convincing them of the transformative potential of personalized biological solutions required building trust and overcoming skepticism. We addressed this by actively engaging with farmers, providing them with tangible results and case studies that demonstrated the practical benefits of our approach. It’s a continuous learning process, and our ability to adapt and communicate effectively has been key to overcoming such challenges.

(T): Finally, what are the next steps for Solena as a company? What do you envision for the future, and how do you plan to further impact the food innovation ecosystem?

(I): The future for Solena is centered around continued innovation and global impact. We plan to expand our reach to more regions, collaborating with additional channel partners and customers. Our focus is on refining and enhancing Prometheus to deliver even greater value to farmers, promoting sustainable agricultural practices on a broader scale. 

We envision Solena playing a pivotal role in the evolution of the food innovation ecosystem, contributing to a more sustainable and resilient future for agriculture.

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Irving Rivera

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