The Lincoln Journal Star reports the founder of Crop Ventures has filed a lawsuit against three former employees. The lawsuit alleges the former employees left Crop Ventures to form their own company despite having signed non-compete agreements.
According to the report:
"In January 2012, Omaha entrepreneur Ron Osborne saw an opportunity to develop systems that would help farmers make better use of the data and store it online. He formed Crop Ventures as a subsidiary of his software company, Salus Novus. The company created a system it called Farm Command that features a hardware device called the CanPlug that plugs into machinery to gather information about everything from seeding and production histories to fuel used and ground speed.
"The system boasted seamless data transfers and safe online storage.
"To help develop and commercialize the products, he hired Jason Tatge as company president, Heath Gerlock as vice president of business development and Randall Nuss as an engineering contractor. All three signed agreements pledging to keep the company’s innovations secret and pledging not engage in competing business.
"'Crop Ventures continued to develop what would be the first-to-market mobile and web technologies to revolutionize collection and analysis of agricultural data,' the lawsuit says. But by June 2013 the company had run into financial difficulty. A month later, Tatge, Gerlock and Nuss quit in quick succession.
"The lawsuit says Osborne found an investor to infuse new life into the company, but the offer was quickly withdrawn after someone leaked news of the internal strife to the investor, the suit says.
“'Because Crop Ventures was a small company, these sudden defections in business leadership and technical talent were devastating. Even more devastating were the efforts of the defectors to undermine Crop Ventures by usurping the company’s technology and sources of capital,' the suit says.
"The suit alleges Tatge, Gerlock and Nuss went on to form their own company, Farmobile, using stolen technology and innovations developed by Crop Ventures.
"Osborne ended up selling his company, its patents and interests to Manitoba, Canada-based Farmers Edge, where he now works as vice president of innovation.
"Farmers Edge earlier this month filed the lawsuit against Farmobile, as well as Tatge, Gerlock and Nuss.
"The lawsuit demands a jury trial and asks for all property, documents, materials, patents and profits Farmobile got as a result of what was taken from Crop Ventures plus damages."