Cosmic Crisp

Oct 2, 2019
Phytelligence reportedly shutting down

Cultivar propagation company Phytelligence is reportedly shutting down after a federal judge sided with Washington State University in a long legal dispute over growing Cosmic Crisp trees.

Seattle-based journalist James Thorne was the first to report the shutdown, writing on that investors were told Sept. 25 that the Phytelligence Board of Directors had determined the company was insolvent and had appointed a receiver to administer and liquidate the company assets.

Todd Snyder, president of C&O Nursery, based in Wenatchee, Washington, confirmed to Fruit Growers News he had recently been told the company is shutting down. C&O is a member of the International New variety Network (INN) and North America INN (NAINN), which earlier had invested in Phytelligence.

“C&O Nursery did not invest directly into this company, but was informed of the closure last week,” he said. “We have no further information at this time.”

Phytelligence leaders didn’t respond to email and social media requests seeking comment for this story.

Phytelligence had been locked in a legal dispute with Washington State University (WSU) over rights to propagate WA 38 trees, whose apples will be sold under the brand Cosmic Crisp during a brand launch in the coming months.

Phyteligence had filed a lawsuit against WSU in February 2018 in King County, Washington Superior Court, claiming WSU had given it an option for a license to commercially propagate Cosmic Crisp, but never provided the license. WSU counter-sued in March 2018 for breach of contract, in addition to a separate patent infringement suit in United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

The dispute was somewhat ironic because Phytelligence itself was originally a spin-off from Washington State University, based on a technology for growing plant tissues in a nutrient gel. Company founder Amit Dhingra, the company’s chief science officer, is a WSU professor.

In a June 14, 2019 written opinion, Chief District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez granted WSU’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed Phytelligence’s claims.

This fall, Cosmic Crisp will have its first large-scale harvest as newly-planted orchards begin bearing fruit. WA 38 is a patented cross of Enterprise and Honeycrisp trees, with good size, crunch, taste, juiciness and color, in addition to favorable traits for storage and shipping. Washington state growers have planted millions of trees. Marketers this spring estimated 2019 apple production at about 175,000 40-pound boxes.

– Stephen Kloosterman, FGN associate editor

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