Alltech, the global animal feed and crop nutrition company, is looking for startups to apply to the third iteration of ‘The Pearse Lyons Accelerator’ program. The deadline to apply is December 31, 2018.
The program will be hosted at one of Europe’s leading startup hubs, Dogpatch Labs in Dublin, Ireland. It culminates in the final shortlisted 10 startups pitching to more than 4,000 attendees and some of the premier global thought leaders in agriculture on the main stage of ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference in May 2019 in Kentucky, USA.
Where are Pearse Lyons Accelerator Alumni Now?
To date, alumni have collectively raised $36 million since completing the program; one startup has been acquired — digital animal ear tag company Smartbow by Zoetis; and two startups have made acquisitions, including AgriWebb, which earlier this year raised a $14m Series A round from Wheatsheaf Group, the Duke of Westminster’s investment fund. “The ongoing support from the programme has been instrumental in our growth,” said AgriWebb co-founder Justin Webb.
More recently Allison Kopf, founder of alumnus Agrilyst, was named in the Forbes 30 under 30 Food & Drinks category, Irish startup MagGrow raised a further €3 million and the Indonesian startup eFishery closed a $3.5 million round.
What Makes This Accelerator Different?
Alltech does not take any equity from the startups and instead focuses on helping them with their business development and route to market, a big challenge for agtech startups.
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The accelerator, which is focused on later-stage startups, enables Alltech and Dogpatch Labs to facilitate faster global market access. By offering a comprehensive package of support, The Pearse Lyons Accelerator helps the selected startups navigate the challenges of scaling their operations globally, to service large corporate customers particularly.
“We didn’t appreciate the challenges that some of these startups face in building a viable route to market and adapting their technologies for the relevant customer-base,” said Dr. Mark Lyons, the new CEO of family-owned Alltech. “They can be very good at pitching the idea, but at the end of the day, the technology needs to work, be easy-to-use and to market to clients. They either need to partner with a large company, or get to lots of smaller farms. Our ability to help startups with business development has been a big learning for us over the last two years.”
“When The Pearse Lyons Accelerator launched almost three years ago, there were only 30 agtech/food accelerators, now I’m told there are 70+. By moving relatively quickly, we’ve progressed beyond the early discovery and learning phase and exposed our leadership to it,” he added
How Alltech Interacts with Startups in the Accelerator
Beyond a desire to better understand agtech, Alltech looks to match internal capabilities with external partnerships to create win-win situations. In last year’s cohort, for example, Smartbow (a digital animal ear tag company) and Alltech partnered to create a new bundle combining premium nutrition with sensors and now two trials are running on beef and dairy farms in North America. It is also exploring how to supply Alltech Coppens, the specialist fish feed division, with A.I. farmed insects provider Entocycle (a Y-Combinator alum).
Alltech also hopes to act as a facilitator between the startups and its industry partners, enabling interactions between the two, Mark Lyons told AgFunderNews.
“The viability of agtech startups is often based on their ability to sell a product to customers. We want to be allies in thinking how we can help commercialize the startups that are clearly addressing a big need for more tech in the industry. Right now there’s still a gap between them and their customers in terms of understanding and appetite. We hope we can sit in the middle and do the introductions and demystify one side to the other.”
Alltech’s customer base is far-reaching from Brazil to China, and Alltech has taken its ONE Conference on the road to various markets where it has local teams that could work with the startups.
Alltech’s traditional customer is a feed mill and large feed producers across species and animal products — meat, milk, eggs, pets, aquaculture, and so on.
Who Should Apply?
“The starting point is the problem rather than the technology. We think about the pain points of Alltech’s customers from feedmills to farmers and how we can make their lives easier,” said Menno Axt, Program Manager at Dogpatch Labs.
“In assessing startups, we tend to think about technologies that are moving on an exponential curve. The convergence of the rapidly falling price of sensors, cameras and other hardware combined with sustained gains in the price/performance AI, cloud storage and data processing is opening up new possible solutions to the key challenges in agriculture. We keep an open mind and to date, we’ve had startups that leverage IoT, AI, drones and CRISPR.
What’s in it for Alltech?
Alltech has always been a thought leader in the industry and the focus is bringing the latest and greatest innovations to their customers. Running the accelerator gives an opportunity to learn about these new technologies and showcase them to customers.
There are four main ways the accelerator adds value to Alltech, according to Lyons.
- Insight: Keeping up-to-date on new technologies and understanding the people behind them.
- Staff: Motivating Alltech staff. “When a company gets bigger, it can lose its entrepreneurial edge and things get bureaucratic and slow; by engaging in our own entrepreneurial activities, and having our staff members as mentors, it’s keeping that part of their brain active and provides lots of value to both sides,” he said.
- Thought Leadership: By having the startups present at the ONE Conference in May, it shows Alltech to be a thought leader as well as benefiting the presenting startups
- Win-Wins: Alltech seeks to adopt relevant startup technologies where it can drive new revenue or cost savings.
Who is Dogpatch Labs?
Irish startup hub Dogpatch Labs has been developing a reputation for agtech over the last number of years. Building on its partnership with Alltech, last month it hosted a demo day of world’s first aquaculture accelerator ‘Hatch’ and hosted part of the ‘AgNexus’ global agtech investor conference in partnership with Finistere Ventures. Irish startup ‘Cainthus’ (machine vision for livestock) is now one of its fastest-growing residents.
How to Apply?
AgTech startups are encouraged to apply for The Pearse Lyons Accelerator programme before Dec. 31, 2018. Visit pearselyonsaccelerator.com for more information and to apply.
**This article was sponsored by the Pearse Lyons Accelerator, an AgFunder Network Partner. To find out more about the program, click here.**