Smart Yields team arrives in Rome for first Vatican-blessed technology accelerator

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson

Smart Yields cofounders (left to right) Justin Hedani, Vincent Kimura, and Michael Rogers meet with Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson along with other Laudato Si’ Startup Challenge participants.

HONOLULU — Hawaii-based Smart Yields is one of nine startups from around the world to participate in the Laudato Si’ Challenge, an international technology accelerator.

Smart Yields CEO Vincent Kimura, Chief Technology Officer Justin Hedani, and Chief Agricultural Officer Michael Rogers arrived in Rome in mid-July, joining entrepreneurs from five continents and 20 countries who are working on solutions to address climate change and human migration – the world’s most intractable problems that are also “the next billion-dollar industry.”

The Challenge is inspired by His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical called Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, calling for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.

“Our changing climate means that what has grown well for generations may no longer be the optimal crop for a given area, and there’s no time for trial-and-error approaches to adapting,” Kimura said. “Meanwhile, technology is also critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, of which agriculture is the second largest source behind energy.”

“New technology will stabilize production, reduce waste, diversify revenue streams and create jobs,” he continued. “There has never been a better nor more critical time to reinvent the oldest industry in the world.”

Founded in 2015, Smart Yields helps farmers, indoor growers and gardeners protect and maximize their crops with a robust and flexible technology platform that includes an intuitive mobile app and a range of sensors. The Smart Yields app debuted in Apple’s App Store in July.

Laudato Si' Startup Challenge Cohort

The first cohort of the Laudato Si’ Startup Challenge at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“I am deeply inspired, and profoundly awed, by these fearless and humble entrepreneurs with their bold and innovative solutions to climate change,” said Eric Harr, Co-Founder & Managing Director at The Laudato Si’ Challenge.

“I love how Smart Yields is using technology to elevate humanity,” Harr added. “This company is destined for greatness.”

Laudato Si’ Challenge directors Stephen Forte (Fresco Capital) and Paul Orlando (University of Southern California) have hosted more than 500 companies across four previous accelerator programs. They invited His Eminence Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for promoting Integral Development in the Vatican, to help keep startups mission-aligned while in Rome.

“We can teach them the Silicon Valley part,” Forte said. “But the mission part? That’s got to come from some place deeper, some place more meaningful.”

“We cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s tools,” said Peter Thompson, President of the UN General Assembly, in support of the announcement of the Laudato Si’ Challenge at the Casa Pio in the Vatican earlier this year. “We must embrace rapid, continuous and disruptive innovation on a massive scale.”

The 12 companies selected for the accelerator in Rome will receive $100,000 equity investment, office space in Rome for the duration of the eight-week accelerator program, mentorship and global strategic positioning. Companies that demonstrate a scalable, sustainable, socially-impactful and profitable solution will be invited back for a showcase at the Vatican in December.

Mass in the Tomb of St. Peter

Laudato Si’ Startup Challenge participants attend Mass in the Tomb of St. Peter in Rome.

About Smart Yields

Smart Yields is an agriculture technology platform that gives farmers, indoor growers and gardeners real-time information, trends and forecasts, and recommendations via an intuitive and customizable mobile app. While designed to be simple and easy to use, Smart Yields connects with a wide-variety of sensors and hardware and taps a diverse array of data sets and agronomy best practices to give farmers a flexible yet powerful tool to help protect crops, optimize operations, and increase yields. For more information, visit

About the Laudato Si’ Challenge

The mission of the Laudato Si’ Challenge is to respond to the challenge set forth by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, which calls us to unite as a human family in addressing the myriad ecological crises affecting our planet; support the development of high-impact social businesses offering new ways to address issues of climate change and human migration; and engage in a global conversation about breakthrough solutions that can solve some of the world’s most urgent and critical problems, while fostering a sense of compassion and fraternity with all people everywhere. For more information, visit