Chris Harbourt, Ph.D.
Position: CEO, Hatch Ag Group; CEO, AirScout; Assistant Professor, University of Illinois
Hometown: Allentown, N.J.
A visionary in the marriage of Ag and technology, Chris Harbourt, Ph.D. has built a successful track record of imagining, founding and developing companies which help the world’s farmers grow more abundant and sustainable crops.
Harbourt works seamlessly in both academia and business.
On the commercial side, Harbourt is the CEO of AirScout, Inc. and the managing partner of Hatch Ag Group, LLC. AirScout, based in Champaign, IL, creates prescription maps from thermal images flown from fixed-wing manned aircraft. The goal of AirScout is to provide growers with a powerful proactive crop management tool to maximize return on precision Ag equipment. Likewise, Hatch Ag Group looks to nurture and commercialize the best ideas for Ag businesses out of the University of Illinois. Already, Hatch is working with two early stage, professor-run startups and a number of other businesses.
On the academic front, Harbourt is an assistant professor with the University of Illinois. He teaches agricultural classes in the Department of Crop Sciences and entrepreneurship with the College of Engineering. He has taught classes in crop sciences, geostatistics, entrepreneurship, and startups. Harbourt was also a member of the University of Illinois College of ACES External Advisory Committee, helping the Dean define the university’s strategic vision in agriculture and technology.
In 2014, Harbourt founded Agrible, Inc., which grew into one of Ag’s most innovative technology platforms. With customers in the US, South Africa and Brazil, Agrible was at the forefront of connecting grower data with value-add opportunities, including innovative sustainability functionalities whereby growers could see a premium for changing production practices. As CEO, Harbourt led fundraising efforts (seed, series A, bridge, and series B) and assembled a 70-person team to envision and build the software. Agrible received the 2015 Innovation Venture Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence which recognized the company as the most promising business emerging from the University of Illinois Ag community. Agrible was sold to Nutrien in 2018 for $63MM.
Before focusing on AgTech businesses, Harbourt was a VP and principal engineer with Waterborne Environmental, Inc. in Champaign, IL. At Waterborne, Harbourt built the team to 20 employees and expanded its consulting market to new offerings in advanced analysis, winning over $100MM in consulting projects and working in the US, EU, Brazil, China, and Australia. For ten years, Harbourt was the principal investigator on Atrazine for Syngenta and Pyrethroids for the Pyrethroid Working Group of Bayer, FMC, Syngenta and DuPont.
Harbourt was named to the 2013 Illinois 40 Under 40 List by the Illinois Business Magazine. The award recognized young professionals for their achievements, experience, innovation, leadership and community involvement. He is a member of several scientific societies, including the American Chemical Society, the American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers and the Soil Science Society of America.
Harbourt received his Bachelor’s degree in Biological Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech and his Master’s and PhD in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He has published a number of academic papers.
Harbourt is a resident of St. Joseph, IL. He and his wife Susan have two sons.