AgLaunch Accelerator to Invest in New Agricultural Innovation Startups

Applications open for Fall 2016 cohort

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (May 16, 2016) — 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, Tenn., which will start in August 2016. Applications will be accepted through June 17, 2016.  The six teams that are selected will receive pre-seed investment of up to $50,000, a strong support program, and access to farmers, investors and strategic partners. The 15-week accelerator will begin Aug. 15, 2016 and will culminate with a Demo Day on Nov. 17.

“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.”

“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.”

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.

“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.”

The AgLaunch Accelerator is funded in part through a grant from Launch Tennessee.

The Accelerator includes involvement from the following leading agribusinesses, investment firms and organizations: Agricenter International, Archer Malmo, Baker Donelson, Closed Loop Capital, CNH Industrial, Cultivate Ventures, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, Fall Line Capital, German Farms, Global Action Platform, GrowthX, Henderson Transloading, Informa Economics, Innova Memphis, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Life Science Tennessee, Little Bird Innovation, Mid-America Farm Credit, Middle Tennessee State University, Mid-South Family Farms, Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum, Monsanto Growth Ventures, National Agricultural Genotyping Center, National Corn Growers Association, Oxbow Agriculture, Progeny Ag Products, Ritter Agribusiness, Syngenta Ventures, Tennessee Farm Bureau, University of Tennessee at Martin, Valley View Agri-Systems, Vanderbilt University, and Waller Law.

For more information on the AgLaunch accelerator application process, or to apply, visit memphisbioworks.org/aglaunch.

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About the AgLaunch Initiative

AgLaunch is an initiative of Memphis Bioworks Foundation 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 Delta Regional Authority.  The goal of AgLaunch is to start, attract, and grow 100 new agricultural companies in Tennessee by 2022.  The AgLaunch Accelerator is one of the key initiatives toward that goal, and other initiatives include a network of research farms and farmers, development of investment funds, and new mechanisms to facilitate the commercialization of research.