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The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. Image credit: Agtech NEXT/Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

AgTech NEXT 2022 will examine how technology, trade and talent can reinforce our food system

August 3, 2022

The Donald Donald Danforth Plant Science Center just announced AgTech NEXT 2022, a three-day event that will examine the intersection of technology, trade, and talent as they relate to our regional and global food system. This is the first year AgTech NEXT will take place in person, following completely virtual events held in 2020 and 2021. AgTech NEXT 2022 will be held at the Danforth Plant Science Center, located in St. Louis’ 39 North Innovation District

It’s an understatement to say a lot has happened since AgTech NEXT last occurred, in 2021. War impacting supply chains. Devastating weather ravaging crops. The highest inflation the US has seen in 40 years. The list goes on. 

“Climate pressures, resource conflicts, and sociopolitical strife are causing an enormous strain on our food system, unlike anything we have seen in decades,” Stephanie Regagnon, executive director of innovation partnerships at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, tells AFN over email.

This year’s AgTech NEXT event will delve into how we can leverage technology, talent, and trade to address the above issues and secure a better food system for the future. Importantly, AgTech NEXT isn’t just a series of talking points and panels; the conference is all about taking action.

“While bringing game-changing technology to market is certainly the Danforth Center’s sweet spot as it relates to the future of food, we feel it’s imperative to have a holistic conversation about the challenges we are facing and, most importantly, the opportunity we have to reinvent and reimagine our food system,” Regagnon notes. “To be successful, that will require innovations in technology, a more diverse talent pipeline and a more equitable trade system.”  

St. Louis may not be the largest city in the US, but it is certainly considered by many to be the nation’s heart of innovation, particularly when it comes to agrifoodtech tools and strategies that could be applied around the world. Roughly half of all US agriculture is within a 500-mile radius of the city and surrounding areas, and many other sectors are thriving in the city including fintech, geospatial, and healthcare.

The Danforth Center is a key player in 39 North, a 600-acre area of St. Louis that ’s also home to Benson Hill, CoverCress, Bayer Crop Science, BRDG Park the Helix Center Biotech Incubator, and The Yield Lab.

“For more than 20 years, civic, business, and academic leaders have worked together to steward the region’s development as a center for research and commercial activity in agriculture and plant science,” says Regagnon “Major proof points of that commitment are the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (the world’s largest non-profit plant science research institute), the 39 North Innovation District and a community of 1000+ plant scientists who share a mission to improve human health while preserving the environment.”

“Today, we’re accelerating our commitment to agrifood tech and innovation by applying our regional strength in location science, GIS, geospatial technology, smart devices, remote imaging and sensing, AI, and machine learning to accelerate the pace of innovations that make the agri-food industry more secure, agile, and sustainable from farm to fork,” she adds.

Event programming for AgTech NEXT 2022 will reflect that mission. 

Everything kicks off on October 11 with an opening reception at Benson Hill’s new headquarters in St. Louis’ 39 North Innovation District. Optional tours of the state-of-the-art facility will be on offered that evening.

The subsequent two days of the event will be divided up by themes, some of which include a panel on creative capital and one on “inclusion and intentionality” as it relates to talent. On October 12, keynote presentations include Sunayna Tuteja, chief innovation officer of the Federal Reserve System who has 10+ years of global experience leading change and innovation at the nexus of finance, technology and policy; and long-time leader in international agriculture development Julie Borlag, who will share her perspective on how we can better develop talent in agrifoodtech.

On October 13 the conference will focus on collaboration in technology innovation. Cynthia Rosenzweig, PhD, a senior research scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the co-located Columbia University Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research, will give a keynote that day, followed by panelists from Taylor Geospatial Institute, Impossible Sensing, and other companies.  

For those that can’t make it to the event in-person, AgTech NEXT will offer a free online option to view keynotes and panels.

“We want those who cannot attend in-person to continue to engage with our signature annual innovation event, AgTech NEXT,” says Regagnon.  

Early bird tickets are available until September 1. This year, the event is also offering a limited number of discounted tickets for grassroots nonprofits, students, and community organizers.

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