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AgLaunch Accelerator Accepting Applications for 2016 Cohort as Ecosystem Grows

May 18, 2016

AgLaunch Accelerator is now accepting applications for its Fall 2016 cohort.

The accelerator is led by Memphis Bioworks Foundation’s Ag Innovation Development Group, an international venture development organization that’s in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, Tennessee State University, USDA Rural Development, and the Delta Regional Authority. 

This is the accelerator’s second cohort, but Memphis Bioworks has supported over 25 agtech startups between 2013 and 2015, some of which have made it onto the AgFunder platform.

Including AgLaunch, we count over 20 agtech-focused accelerators and incubators today, as well as an increasing number of agtech startups entering, and winning, business competitions, highlighting the growing general interest in the sector.

“Many non-agricultural technology folks are wanting to get into this space, and I expect this to continue,” Pete Nelson, director of AgLaunch, tells AgFunderNews. “Ultimately, the rubber will meet the road when these technologies hit the farm.”

Applications will be accepted until June 17, 2016, and the program will begin during August 2016. Each of the six selected companies will receive a pre-seed investment of up to $50,000 along mentorship from and access to farmers, investors, and strategic partners. The 15-week program will culminate in a Demo Day on November 17, 2016.

The AgLaunch Accelerator will focus on a range of technologies, including precision agriculture, robotics, automation, biologic-based pest control, specialty crops, equipment modifications, food ingredients, food safety, reduction of food waste, water/input efficiencies and innovations in the supply chain. Of particular interest are startups that address major problems in agriculture, such as herbicide-resistant weeds, spray drift, water management, supply chain integrity, and soil health.

“There is a great group of national accelerators and venture development organizations that are addressing agricultural innovation,” says Nelson. “We are all working together, including Yield Lab, Tech Accel, AgTech Accelerator, AgTI, Thrive Accelerator, and a few others.”

“This year’s agricultural accelerator includes a vastly larger group of partners, service providers, investors, and program support than previous agricultural innovation accelerator programs we have overseen or partnered with,” he adds.

General tech accelerator program Start Co. and Memphis-based logistics-focused accelerator EPIcenter will provide programming support throughout the accelerator.

Other partners include corporate sponsors, investors, regional research farms, and farmers and agribusinesses like non-profit ag research and education group Agricenter International, Mid-South Family Farms, grain services providers Ritter Agribusiness, and grain systems outfitters Valley View Agri-Systems.

AgLaunch’s goal is to start, attract, and grow 100 new agricultural companies in Tennessee by 2022. Along with the accelerator, other initiatives include a network of research farms and farmers, development of investment funds, and new mechanisms to facilitate the commercialization of research.

“We expect to see a stronger farm economy with new revenue streams for our farmers,” explains Nelson. “AgLaunch is designed to be replicated in other states and regions, and there are already a lot of discussions on this with potential partners across the US.”

According to Nelson, the Memphis region is well-suited for an agtech accelerator. The surrounding region boasts a variety of soil types, crops, market opportunities, as well as logistics, water, and farmers who are willing to try new innovations, he says.

Local universities and national laboratories in the region also provide strong support.

By his count, there are also over 1,000 food companies in Tennessee and a range of other market opportunities that support new business growth in specialty crops and the supply chain.

“From a regional perspective, there are many university-based programs focused specifically on value-added agriculture and local deals,” he explains. “There are also local programs focused specifically on value-added agriculture and local deals.”

You can apply for AgLaunch Accelerator here.

Know of any agtech accelerators or competitions that we haven’t covered? We want to know! Send Lauren an email at [email protected].

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