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15 Minutes With… Kaitlin Fitzgerald, VP of Sustainability at Sound Agriculture

By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media (June 20, 2023)

Kaitlin Fitzgerald is vice president of sustainability for Sound Agriculture, a startup on a mission to create crop inputs and traits that lead to more sustainable, healthier, and tastier food. With headquarters in Emeryville, California, the company has 140+ employees across the U.S., and has enjoyed steady growth since 2013 with the help of $160 million in funding from investors such as S2G Ventures, Fall Line Capital, Leaps by Bayer, and Cavallo Ventures.

Sound Agriculture has led discoveries about how crops interact with the environment, developing crop solutions that “unleash the natural power of plants”. Their flagship product SOURCE® activates nitrogen fixing and phosphate solubilizing microbes through proprietary chemistry, and can be used to increase in-season nutrients in corn, wheat, soybean, cotton, hay, and alfalfa. The product has seen 4.3x growth since 2022 and is now being used on more than 1 million acres in the U.S. The goal is to reduce more than 100 megatons of CO2 equivalent and avoid billions of pounds of nitrates from reaching waterways by 2030.

In addition, Sound has developed on-demand breeding, which develops plant traits 10 times faster than current methods without changing the DNA. The platform aims to address the need for nutritious, great tasting food that can withstand climate change.

As for Fitzgerald, she began with Sound in 2020 in business development and was named VP of sustainability in 2022. She serves as an interlock between the company’s commercial Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy and impact objectives to ensure that the systems and processes, programs, and other supporting features are available to drive greenhouse gas and water quality outcomes while accurately quantifying and reporting on those impacts.

Fitzgerald and Anna Rath, CEO & president of Vesteron Corporation, will present at our 2023 Women in Agribusiness Summit this fall on the topic of “The Power of Bio-based Crop Solutions”.

We spoke with Fitzgerald to get a better picture of what’s to come.

1). Tell us more about Sound Agriculture's mission to "unleash the power of plants to create a more agile and resilient food system".

At Sound, our team is advancing two novel technology platforms aimed at leveraging plant and soil biology to radically improve food production in response to our changing climate. Our nutrient efficiency products activate soil microbes to release more nitrogen and phosphorus to crops, reducing reliance on synthetic fertilizer. On-demand breeding quickly delivers improved plant traits without changing the plant's DNA. The result is food that is better for people and the planet.

2). Your main product is SOURCE®. What are the advantages of this product?

Fertilizer provides critical nutrients to crops throughout the season that are essential to plant health and yield, but up to 50 percent of synthetic nitrogen and 85 percent of phosphorus is unused by the plant or locked up in the soil. Those excess nutrients lead to both economic and environmental waste.

SOURCE delivers reliable results critical to farming operations of all sizes by reducing the amount of fertilizer needed to achieve the grower’s yield goal and improve their return on investment. The product helps growers optimize their nutrient efficiency, providing 25 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus at about half the per acre cost of synthetic alternatives. SOURCE is unique as a chemistry that activates the native biology to deliver key nutrients at the right time, in the right place at the rootzone, and in the right way through partner microbes to create a healthy and resilient plant.

Most importantly, it easily fits into a grower’s typical operation mixing along with other herbicides and fungicides in the tank. With a low use rate, just four gallons can replace a tanker truck of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.

3). More than a dozen leading food and ag companies employ your epigenetics-developed offerings to reduce spoilage, increase yields, and enhance nutrition in a variety of crops. Can you please explain further?

Our goal with on-demand breeding (ODB) is to provide better crop offerings faster and cheaper than what’s available today through both internal development and partnerships with key players across the food and ag value chain. Our partners see ODB as a powerful tool in their toolbox alongside traditional breeding and alternative next-gen approaches. Current projects focus on a wide variety of crops such as corn, soybeans, peppers, potatoes, yellow peas, leafy greens, and tomatoes.

More often than not, the industry relies on plant varieties that were developed for yield at the expense of other desired traits such as taste, nutrition, sustainability, and visual appearance. The problem is that optimizing for a particular trait often results in tradeoffs with other desirable traits, and it can take over a decade to identify one of those outlier traits for a beneficial cross. Plants have the inherent ability to be tastier, more robust, more resistant to disease, etc., but we need a way to tease out desirable traits faster, without sacrificing commercial viability.

On-demand breeding uses the science of epigenetics to unlock the plant’s abilities to adapt using its own natural pathways allowing us to target specific traits without losing other beneficial characteristics. Unlike gene editing or GMOs that change the DNA, ODB tunes how genes are expressed - similar to turning a volume dial up or down. Not only does that allow for a lighter touch, but it also offers a faster outcome vastly compressing the time required to discover and develop new varieties.

4). In your role, sustainability is key. How do you see a focus on this being a key determinant to driving resilience, production, and performance in the sector?

Anyone who works in food and agriculture is well versed in the climate impact from our system balanced against the backdrop of feeding a growing population. There is a growing sense of urgency to drive structural changes to combat those challenges, but given the interconnectedness of our food system no one company can achieve those changes on its own. Progress against that objective requires innovations - whether that’s new products and technology, new commercial models, or new financing structures - that sit at the intersection of environmental and economic sustainability.

At Sound, we’re fortunate that sustainability is core to our DNA as a company with a focus on doing well by doing good. My function at the company is very cross-functional given that positioning serving as a strategic thought partner to research, sales and marketing, and other departments to deliver policy, products, and partnerships that support better methods of farming and food system resiliency.

5). There is an impressive group of investors providing funding for Sound. Do you foresee another fundraise soon, and if so, what projects with this support?

Sound closed its most recent funding round in December 2022 with the goal of

scaling our two core business lines. This was a growth capital round focused on taking us through the next couple of years of development and was led by new investors in BMO Impact Investment Fund and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative alongside FootPrint Coalition and strong partnership in our returning investor set.

For our SOURCE business line, this means putting the team and infrastructure in place to grow beyond our 1 million acre foothold. Beyond delivering consistent growth in our core crops and markets this includes building on a couple of key partnerships outside the U.S. to drive international expansion as well as advancing our pipeline to deliver the next generation of solutions for farmers. For on-demand breeding we are investing in continued R&D to advance our foundational science, expand partner projects, and bring improved products developed through epigenetics to market faster and more efficiently.

6). Can you provide a primer to your upcoming presentation at our WIA Summit?

I’m so excited to share the stage with Anna Rath to discuss how bio-based crop solutions can address key challenges and opportunities in production agriculture. We’ll dive into the value proposition and efficacy of innovative technologies and how they can impact the value chain. With the 2023 Farm Bill on the horizon and continued energy devoted to advancing climate-smart agriculture, we’ll also explore the policy and commercial opportunities to partner in advance of a more productive and sustainable industry. The WIA Summit is one of the leading events for ag professionals each year, and I’m looking forward to an engaging and informative session!


Kaitlin Fitzgerald is VP of sustainability for Sound Agriculture where she is responsible for driving strategic partnerships, policy and programming in pursuit of a healthier, more sustainable food system. She has spent the last decade of her career spearheading strategy and commercialization efforts at the intersection of finance, technology, and climate. Prior to joining Sound Agriculture, she held several roles across product, business development and marketing at Indigo Agriculture with responsibility for piloting and scaling key platform initiatives. Fitzgerald began her career in asset management at T. Rowe Price analyzing both public and private companies across a diverse set of industries. She earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Notre Dame, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

- Michelle Pelletier Marshall is contributing editor and author for HighQuest Partners’ GAI News and Unconventional Ag, and managing editor for its WIA Today blog. Additionally, she is the company’s Senior PR/Media Manager. She can be reached at


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