Leadership Team

LUCAS FRYE

Founder

What excites me about Amber is that we are figuring out the tough tech that is no one in the industry’s job to build for farmers.  Our first farm toy is a high return tool that ticks a task in a new old-fashioned way. Why I whistle to work every morning, is getting to work alongside the roster full of A-Players on our team. Folks that are pros at their craft and make hard work fun.

Bio
Growing up on a sixth-generation grain farm in Mason County Illinois, Lucas majored in Ag Economics and continued into MBA studies at the University of Illinois. While in undergrad, Lucas was elected by the student body to represent the campus of 40,000 on the Board of Trustees. Experiences across the agriculture value chain [seed production] + [financial analyst work within ag lending] + [agribusiness strategy consulting] led Lucas into early stage enterprise development. 

At Amber Lucas bounces back and forth between the backroads and boardrooms working with farmers and leaders in the grain industry on building the long term future, today.

JOSEPH VARIKOOTY

Founder

Growing up on the East Coast, minutes away from New York City, I never thought I'd find myself smiling ear to ear in the middle of Iowa, standing knee-deep in yellow corn in the 113 degree, suffocating-heat in March of a grain bin's headspace while trying to probe in temperature cables. Cables really suck. 

I spent my childhood taking everything in the house apart, from the family computer to our microwave. I also found myself fascinated with nature, particularly with plants. Dad and I grew orchids in the bathroom, lily pads in trashcans on the deck, and Mom and I had tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in the backyard. As I got older, I was bitten by the tech bug and I dreamed of automating everything. Sensors were my creation's eye and ears, and the motors, relays, and LEDs were its arms and legs.

Naturally, I found my passion at the intersection of biology and hardware electronics. I've worked on deep academic research and fast-paced technology company projects ranging from algae bioreactors, treadmills for fruit flies, neuro implants for mice, to biometric sensors for humans. However, nothing makes me feel more at home then when I'm back in my elements surrounded by plants, knowing that one day I could automate this. Amber was my calling.

Bio
Joey grew up in New Jersey. In high school he spent his summers and weekends commuting to New York City to work as an Instrumentation Engineer at a neurobiology lab at Rockefeller University. There he was involved in design and manufacturing efforts of experimental test devices in order to help world leading scientists better understand memory development in fruit flies. For college he moved to the Midwest to attend the University of Illinois where he double majored in Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering.
 
He led various hackathon projects including the one that finally evolved into Amber Agriculture. During this time he also worked for Fitbit's R&D team working on research initiatives in Machine Vision and Remote Biometric Sensing using ultra mass-produced, low cost sensors, found in todays' smartphones and wearables. By leveraging his domain expertise in cutting-edge sensing, low-cost electronics, and biology he co-founded Amber Agriculture with Lucas. At Amber he can be found surrounded by sensors at his desk in Chicago, climbing grain bins with Amber Customers in the Midwest, or leading manufacturing across the world in Shenzhen, China.

Drew Bell

Research Lead

Although I grew up in a farm town in South Central Illinois, when I finished college with an engineering degree, I wasn’t interested in working in the agriculture industry. I wanted to go to the West Coast to work on popular tech products that I thought would “make peoples’ lives better”. 

But after a few years there, I found myself yearning to work on products that solved actual problems, especially ones that I might be uniquely able to help with. Then I met Lucas and Joey. I quickly got on board with Amber’s vision and saw the clear opportunity to combine two things I knew well: technology and the Midwest. I wasn’t a farm kid growing up, but when I see our products make a farmer’s life easier, less stressful, or more fun, I feel like I’m giving back to the farm community and families that helped raised me. 

Bio
Drew majored in mechanical engineering and minored in the Hoeft Technology and Management Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As an undergraduate, he interned at Microsoft and Tesla, where he discovered west coast tech and the magic of hardware. 

After undergrad, he worked at Garmin helping design fitness wearables as a mechanical design engineer before returning to California for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford University. At Stanford, he focused on mechatronics, serving as a graduate course assistant for the ME218 Smart Product Design series and a graduate research assistant in the Biomimetics and Dexterous Manipulation Lab. Since joining Amber in 2018, Drew has supported a broad range of electromechanical projects, including iterating the mechanical design of Ace Air, helping with manufacturing scale-up, researching and validating new sensor technologies, and guiding UL product certification efforts. He continues to drive the mechanical evolution of Amber products and leads firmware development on Ace Air’s IoT platform.

RAJEEV PIYARE

Network Lead

I joined Amber as they were trying to solve one of the most fundamental issues in the grain industry and building the coolest tech for farmers to manage their grain with just a click of a button. I quickly jumped on-board team, Amber, to help tackle this issue and developed out the industry's first wireless kernel-like sensors.

Bio
While growing up in the beautiful Fiji Islands, Rajeev majored in electronics engineering at the University of the South Pacific before moving to Mokpo, South Korea for his master's degree.  Driven by his quest for higher research, he moved to Trento, Italy to pursue his Ph.D. degree in Telecommunications from The University of Trento. Over four years of experience in building ultra-low-power networks led Rajeev to join the team, Amber. He is passionate about translating his research into building new innovative products that will make life easier and aiding Amber in developing the next generation ultra-low-power wireless kernel sensor.

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