Local AgLaunch accelerator targets new agricultural startups

A group of six agriculture and food innovation startups will be selected from across the United States to participate in the AgLaunch Accelerator in Memphis, which will start in August this year and run through mid-November.
“The AgLaunch Accelerator is a key part of our goal of attracting, starting and growing 100 new agricultural startups by 2022,” said Commissioner Jai Templeton, Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “We are positioning Tennessee and the surrounding region as the destination to develop new ideas in agriculture, leveraging the already existing $70 billion dollar industry we represent.”
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.
“AgLaunch Accelerator is a critical step toward creating an innovation culture of commercialization in our farm community,” said Larry Arrington, PhD, Chancellor of University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. “This program will help our university and other universities in the region get valuable technology from research to the farm to help lower input costs and raise profits.” 
The AgLaunch Accelerator is led by Memphis Bioworks Foundation’s Ag Innovation Development Group, an internationally recognized venture development organization that provides leadership and access to a world-class network of mentors and technical experts.  Programming will be supported through the expertise of Start Co. and EPIcenter.  AgLaunch Accelerator has strong partnerships with corporate sponsors and investors, and unprecedented access to regional research farms, leading farmers and agribusinesses such as local partners Agricenter International, Henderson Transloading, Mid-South Family Farms, Ritter Agribusiness and Valley View Agri-Systems.
“The AgLaunch Accelerator, and similar partnering initiatives, are a key part of the dealflow pipeline into USDA’s Rural Business Investment Program,” said Ken Woody, President, Innova Memphis. Innova, founded by Memphis Bioworks in 2006, has received a conditional license from USDA to form a $25 million agricultural innovation-focused venture capital fund by working with a group of Farm Credit banks. “Working with AgLaunch, Innova will fulfill the critical role of investing in early-stage companies that will create opportunities for other funds in the USDA program, as well as other venture capital funds.”
“We have assembled the right assets, including investment, entrepreneurship programming, and access directly to farmers to ensure a fast ramp-up from idea to commercialization,” said Steve Bares, PhD, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation. “We are committed to building stronger deal flow in the agricultural startup space for our investors and bottom-line-improving technology and approaches for our farmers during a difficult period in the agriculture industry.”
Applications will be accepted through June 17, 2016. For more information on the AgLaunch accelerator application process, or to apply, visit memphisbioworks.org/aglaunch.
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