The history of Sunburst Plant Disease Clinic starts with the story of its founders, Dr. Thomas T. Yamashita and Kathleen Horton, who share a passion for helping family farmers solve their agronomic problems in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Doc Tom and Kathleen
Dr. Thomas T. Yamashita, affectionately known as “Doc Tom,” has always had a passion for farming and agriculture. By the age of four, Tom was helping out on his family’s strawberry farm in Campbell, CA.
When he was twelve years old, his family moved to Livingston to take up peach farming.
While in high school, Tom took over the operation of the family peach farm. In 1963, this resulted in the highest peach production yields seen in the state that year. Tom continued to run farm operations until 1973. In 1975, his parents sold the peach farm and retired to Turlock, CA, allowing him to pursue higher education.
Tom went to CSU Fresno, where he obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Agricultural Plant Science. While working on a research project for the USDA Insect Research Laboratory, he met Kathleen, a student from the CSU Fresno Bachelor of Science in Integrated Pest Management Program.
He then transferred to UC Davis, where he earned his Ph.D. in Plant Pathology and Nematology in 1984. During this time Kathleen, worked as a Research Assistant for the CDFA Medfly Project in Sacramento, CA, and as Assistant Museum Curator in the UCD Nematology Department. In 1983, Kathleen and Doc Tom were married, and their son, Tim Yamashita, was born in 1987.
From 1989 to 1991, Doc Tom worked for Cargill, Inc. In 1991, Doc Tom and Kathleen moved to Pocatello, Idaho, where Doc Tom was a researcher and consultant to potato, onion and blueberry growers in the surrounding areas.
Doc Tom then returned to CSU Fresno, where he was a lecturer and research scientist from 1993 to 1994, and a professor and research scientist from 1994 to 1995 in the Plant Pathology and Nematology Department.
Starting Sunburst Plant Disease Clinic
For years, Kathleen had encouraged Doc Tom to start their own business, which would allow Doc Tom to make full use of his technical knowledge of plant science and nematology, as well as the keen observation skills that allowed him to correctly diagnose the principal cause of any disease and identify the products that would enhance crop yields.
They chose to start their business in California’s Central Valley, due to Doc Tom’ s agricultural roots in the area and because he had spent decades fostering relationships with local farmers who trusted his knowledge and expertise. In 1994, their business was founded in their family kitchen, where Doc Tom conducted tests and processed samples. It wasn’t unusual for customers to show up at their doorstep before dawn and leave entire fruit trees in the front yard for Doc Tom to examine. Within a few months, interest had picked up to the point where was apparent that the business required a larger and more formal operations site. Consequently, Sunburst Plant Disease Clinic was established in 1995 in Turlock, CA.
Founding Sunburst’s Sister Company, Fusion 360
In the early years of Sunburst, Doc Tom worked on a number of patents that enhanced cutting- edge plant growth technology. During this time, a number of scientists from around the world sought out Doc’s assistance in finding solutions to issues in their own patents they could not resolve.
This made it clear that Doc Tom’s patents could yield truly revolutionary agricultural products. But Doc and Kathleen recognized that Sunburst’s patents needed to be produced in an independent production facility in order to achieve their full potential. This resulted in the founding of Fusion 360, The Future of Agriculture. In 1998, a factory was built to produce Doc Tom’s cutting edge patented products.
Two decades later, Sunburst PDC and Fusion 360, with their dedicated leadership team, technical consultants and committed employees, work tirelessly to preserve the rich tradition of farming by providing cutting edge products and technologies to increase yields and enhance soil productivity beyond that of virgin soils.
Sunburst PDC and Fusion 360 continue to exemplify Doc Tom’s and Kathleen’s methodical approach to agricultural science and their business vision by eliminating guesswork in favor of precision, implementing unique data-driven programs, and producing cutting-edge patented products to enhance the production of crops in a mono-cultural agronomic arena.
We work closely with our technical consultants, arming growers with the knowledge and technology that they need to address the dynamic agronomic challenges that exist today.
Tim Yamashita is currently pursuing a degree in Agricultural Business so that he can continue Doc Tom and Kathleen’s mission to continue the high-quality tradition of agricultural problem solving and dispelling the great need to feed and clothe the world. This is the future of agriculture.
Sunburst Plant Disease Clinic’s Mission
The Mission of Sunburst Plant Disease Clinic Inc.: To “Improve The Quality Of Life For Mankind By Providing Expeditious, Enlightened, Grower-Compatible Solutions To A Wide Range Of Debilitating, Economically-Impacting Problems In Agriculture And The Environment.” Customer interests, welfare and the continued progress of the Agricultural Industry are our primary concerns.