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Maker Info
Napa Truffle Festival

The American Truffle Company (ATC) was founded to offer a much more reliable and predictable truffle cultivation process based entirely on world-class science and continuing research. The traditional truffle cultivation method of trial-and-error without rigorous scientific basis accounts for the extremely high failure rates of truffle orchards.


Robert Chang Partner & Managing Director brings his technical training (B.S. in Electrical Engineering and minor in Biology, M.S. in Electrical Engineering and qualified for Ph.D. program, all from Stanford University) to continually push the scientific envelope in truffle cultivation. In addition to being an expert in the biology of truffle cultivation, he has used his experience and knowledge in technology and engineering to help ATC client-partners design and implement electronic monitoring systems, moisture-sensing irrigation systems, drainage system and environmental monitoring systems, all central to the automatic collection of data and fine-tuning of truffle cultivation methodology according to client-partner-specific conditions. Distribution of truffles produced is a major component of truffle cultivation, as important as the scientific knowledge and data used to actually grow the truffles themselves. For this Robert brings with him extensive experience in sales, marketing and business development, all of which he has applied to developing deep relationships with significant end users of truffles nationwide. On behalf of all client-partners, Robert is building brand recognition and relationships with leading chefs and truffle end users, central in the successful distribution of truffles produced by ATC’s client-partners. Based in San Francisco, Robert is a foodie who loves to cook, especially with all kinds of mushrooms. Prior to founding ATC, Robert held a number of management roles in product development, sales, marketing and business development in high tech. An entrepreneur at heart, Robert earned his B.S., M.S. and MBA from Stanford University.


Dr. Paul Thomas Partner & Chief Scientist is currently lead researcher and managing director of Mycorrhizal Systems Ltd., as well as Partner and Chief Scientist of American Truffle Company. Being absolutely passionate about truffles and the understanding of their biology, Dr. Thomas is actively engaged in many areas of truffle research. Dr. Thomas received his Bachelor of Science with honors in Natural Environmental Science from the University of Sheffield (England), followed shortly by a doctoral dissertation, focusing on long distance signaling pathways within the plant kingdom, which is central in truffle cultivation. Having published throughout the course of his study, Dr. Thomas quickly earned his Ph.D. from the University of Sheffield./ Towards the end of his doctoral studies, Dr. Thomas was awarded a university grant to commercialize the technology developed during his time at Sheffield and enhance a new system he pioneered to inoculate trees with numerous truffle species. Having actively researched European truffles since 2001, Dr. Thomas has built a solid reputation and developed what is now the world’s largest and most diverse range of truffle research sites worldwide. Spanning four continents and a range of climatic and edaphic (soil) zones, results form these ongoing sites have changed and challenged our understanding of truffles and their biology. Dr. Thomas’ was also the winning business proposal on BBC’s Dragon’s Den program. For those of us in North America unfamiliar with the program, it is much akin to American Idol for entrepreneurs. It was a national television program in which many entrepreneurs presented their business proposals while a panel of successful business leaders (the Dragons) evaluated and picked a winner to award an investment grant. Dr. Thomas has since then appeared regularly on TV and radio programs, and numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times have written about Dr. Thomas and his work. Thanks to the research network developed by Dr. Thomas, there are few other people worldwide who can claim to have such a diverse and informed understanding of the truffle fungus. Fruits from these studies are disseminated to client-partners worldwide and he is regularly asked to give talks, appear in the media and write articles. The majority of this research is kept out of the public domain and used solely to help client-partner truffle farmers, but choice findings have been offered at numerous international conferences and several papers are currently being prepared for publication that challenge our understanding of the relationship between truffles and their symbionts.