Automation Engineer

Sound Agriculture

Sound Agriculture

Software Engineering
Emeryville, CA, USA
Posted on Thursday, June 20, 2024

Why you should join us:

At Sound Agriculture, we believe our food system can nourish consumers while benefiting farming communities and the planet. Through a deeper understanding of plant and microbial biology, we are leveraging the natural power of plants to make agriculture more agile and resilient. Our work focuses on developing nutrient efficiency products and modernizing plant breeding to improve the way we farm and the food we eat.

Sound is a Series D startup funded by leading investors in food and agriculture including Leaps by Bayer, Syngenta Group Ventures, S2G Ventures, BMO Impact Investment Fund, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Fall Line Capital, Cavallo Ventures, FootPrint Coalition and Northpond Ventures.

What you'll do:

We are seeking an Automation Engineer to join our research team, sustaining and optimizing existing workflows as well as co-developing and validating new workflows and tools for our emerging research programs. We are looking for someone who can generate creative solutions, translating chemical/biochemical processes into high-throughput, robust, and flexible protocols. We are looking for a self-starter and tinkerer with an eye for process improvement, who can identify opportunities in our day-to-day research operations and work collaboratively to effect change.

The Automation Engineer is responsible for collaborating with internal and external partners to ensure proper maintenance of instrumentation, perform quality control on automation equipment, and identify new tools that could improve efficiency of our laboratory and research operations. The ideal candidate embraces a user-centric approach, seeking to understand scientists’ problems in the lab to deliver impactful solutions through iterative collaboration. The ideal candidate has hands-on experience with a variety of liquid handling systems; a proven track record of process development in a laboratory environment is preferred. While not required, previous experience with automated data collection, storage, and analysis is a plus.

This role is based onsite at our Emeryville, California headquarters.

Compensation Target

$92,000 to $126,000 base salary plus an annual bonus target of 10%

Bonuses are earned based on annual company and individual performance and are prorated based on start date. Sound reserves the ability to adjust the compensation range based on the final candidate’s experience, skillset, and geography. In addition to on target earnings, we offer above average equity grants for the industry as we believe that every employee should have a stake in the company’s growth. If you’re above this compensation target, we encourage you to reach out and discuss the entire package and opportunity before deciding not to pursue this position.


  • Work collaboratively with scientists and research associates to identify process bottlenecks, optimize experimental protocols and propose new solutions to drive efficiency and quality.
  • Coordinate the troubleshooting and maintenance of existing automation equipment and workflows.
  • Develop and validate next-generation automation techniques for the purification and analysis of RNA/DNA/protein/metabolites in microbial and plant samples.
  • Partner with internal teams to deploy and scale soil microbe screening assays by introducing new automation tools, workflows, and techniques.
  • Lead training sessions and author stand-alone documentation for automated workflows.
  • Manage multiple cross-functional projects, prioritizing projects based on impact and effort for deployment.
  • Communicate timelines, project priorities, and results at various levels of technical depth.
  • Design and build custom hardware solutions to enhance our lab automation capabilities using but not limited to 3D printing technology

Targeted Skills & Experience

  • MS or BS in Biology, Engineering or related field with 4 years of wet lab experience (at least one year in an Automation Engineering role)
  • Previous experience programming and maintaining liquid handlers (e.g., Tecan Fluent, Agilent Bravo, Opentrons). Ability to develop software scripts (e.g., Python, C#, JS, R, SQL) to handle data or control instruments is a plus.
  • Experience with standard laboratory automation equipment (microscopes, plate readers, analytical instruments, etc.).
  • Experience writing, optimizing, and following complicated SOPs.
  • Capability to multitask and manage multiple ongoing projects.
  • Experience interfacing with ELN’s and/or LIMS.
  • Familiarity with concepts in statistics, and tools for quantitative data analysis (e.g., Excel, JMP, R, Python).
  • Familiarity with techniques in molecular biology, including qPCR, RNA/DNA extraction, protein or enzymatic assays is preferred.
  • Familiarity with common biochemical measurement readouts (e.g., colorimetric, fluorescence, luminescence) is preferred.
  • Previous experience in the field of plant or microbial biology is a plus.

This role demonstrates our core values by:

  • Boldness: Proactively promoting adoption of automation equipment in the lab. Championing robot-based workflows at the cutting edge of the research department’s discovery efforts.
  • Ownership: Taking on new projects with an emphasis on driving impact. Demonstrating eagerness to dive deep into our existing automation infrastructure to identify gaps that can improve quality, boost efficiency, or reduce costs.
  • Tenacity: Actively learning new skills through formal and informal training. Demonstrating a commitment to developing workflows for usability, quality, and reliability.
  • Creativity: Taking initiative to learn new tools/skills to implement novel solutions to complex problems in the lab. Recognizing that small changes can have big impacts & the benefit of collaboration to achieve goals.

What we offer:

  • Opportunity to work in a disruptive startup with a talented, experienced, and growing team of dedicated individuals
  • Competitive total rewards package, including equity
  • Performance bonus structure or uncapped commission plan for sales positions
  • Comprehensive health care plans that include Medical, Dental and Vision coverage
  • Flex Spending Account (Healthcare, Dependent Care & Commuter Benefit)
  • 401(k) with company match
  • Generous flexible paid time off
  • Paid parental leave
  • Mental health and wellbeing benefits
  • In-person and virtual events and engagement activities (we actually like hanging out with each other!) (e.g. First Fridays, Meditation, Potlucks, Cultural Events, Running and Climbing groups, Photo Contests, weekly Team lunch, etc.)

Sound Agriculture does not accept unsolicited resumes from individual recruiters or third party recruiting agencies responding to job postings. We will not respond to unsolicited requests to submit candidates.

Equal Employment Opportunity

We seek a diverse pool of applicants and consider all qualified candidates regardless of race, ancestry, color, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, citizenship, disability, Veteran status, marital status, or any other protected status.

Sound participates in E-Verify and will provide the federal government with your Form I-9 information to confirm that you are authorized to work in the United States. If E-Verify cannot confirm that you are authorized to work, Sound is required to give you written instructions and an opportunity to contact the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or Social Security Administration (SSA) so you can begin to resolve the issue before Sound takes any action, including terminating your employment.