AgLaunch to Showcase Six Startup Companies and Ag Innovation Update

Events held November 14 in Nashville and November 17 in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Nov. 11, 2016) – AgLaunch,Ô a joint initiative of Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, is hosting two Demo Day and Innovation Forums next week, which will showcase six startup companies that have participated in programming coordinated through the AgLaunch network. Speakers at the Nashville and Memphis events will also announce new initiatives that are positioning Tennessee and the surrounding region as a strategic area to start and grow innovative agricultural businesses.

“This event marks the next step forward for the AgLaunch initiative,” said Commissioner Jai Templeton of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “The companies being developed in Tennessee will have a positive impact on local farmers, job creation, and global imperatives to help tackle some our world’s largest challenges in food and agriculture. We are excited to support these six companies and those that will follow to reach our goal of creating, attracting and growing 100 agricultural innovation companies in Tennessee during the next five years,” he said.

Four of the six presenting companies have received a $50,000 investment and are completing a 90-day boot camp acceleration process led by Ag Innovation Development Group (AgIDG) and the acceleration experts at Start Co.:

  • Cowlar is a Fitbit for dairy cows. They use wearable technology to help dairy farms become more efficient and productive by boosting reproduction rates, improving cow health and helping farms operate efficiently. Cowlar’s vision is to become a first choice product for America’s 60,000 dairy farms – a $9 billion market.
  • Secure Food Solutions (SFS) is developing a high-speed, imaging technology to detect a dangerous fungal toxin that threatens 25 percent of crops around the world. SFS has licensed this patented technology from Mississippi State University and USDA.
  • Skycision provides a solution that facilitates early detection of crop stress through the analysis of digital imagery collected by satellite or drone. Growers save time in scouting and can pinpoint the precise locations in their fields that need to be treated for various pests, diseases, or water stress. Skycision started in vineyards and now looks to expand its solution to specialty row crops, commodities, and orchards.
  • YieldStart is commercializing a bio-based absorbent technology for seed coating and fertilizer encapsulation. Based on technology being developed in other industries, the polymer offers distinct performance benefits to farmers, seed companies, and next generation input providers.

The final two companies are being served through AgLaunch nodes that span the entire state of Tennessee. The Knoxville Entrepreneurship Center, an AgLaunch delivery partner, has worked extensively with Grow Bioplastics, which was recently selected to participate in Launch Tennessee’s The TENN master accelerator program. AgVoice participated in commercial scale field trials through AgIDG’s farmer network, through which they received key early-stage consulting, user testing, and feedback.

  • Grow Bioplastics is dedicated to improving food sustainability by offering farmers, nursery owners, and greenhouse operators a line of biodegradable plastic plant containers and mulch films made from renewable forestry and biofuel byproducts.
  • AgVoice is a voice-to-data service for agriculture, which increases the efficiency and accuracy of collecting farm data for crop scouts. AgVoice is participating in a multi-farm, production-scale trial across several crops and production scenarios in Tennessee as well as Arkansas.

In addition to investor pitches from the six companies there will be:

  • Keynote presentations on agricultural innovation and investment from Thomas “Bud” Hughes, Verdant Partners (Nashville) and Matt Bell, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures (Memphis)
  • Announcement of the first- and second-place winners from the AgLaunch international virtual pitch competition
  • Representatives from Tennessee Department of Agriculture and USDA to provide comments on the  next steps for the AgLaunch initiative

The events are sponsored by: Archer Malmo, Baker Donelson, Farm Credit Mid-America & Ritter Agribusiness. The programs are managed by Ag Innovation Development Group, a subsidiary of Memphis Bioworks Foundation, working with Start Co., EPIcenter, Agricenter International, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, University of Tennessee Institute for Agriculture (UTIA), Tennessee State University, and other partners. Funding partners include: Launch Tennessee, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, USDA, and the Delta Regional Authority.

“We are excited to help celebrate this next milestone in Tennessee’s push to be a leader in agricultural innovation,” said Tim Cross, Ph.D., interim-chancellor, UTIA. “UTIA is committed to helping leverage our resources to support new startups and commercialize technologies created and developed at the university.”

“These events are a great step forward in connecting entrepreneurship resources with an existing multi-billion dollar industry in a key industry vertical,” said Steve Bares, Ph.D., president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation. “Bioworks remains committed to our 10-year vision of helping reposition existing agricultural resources to support world-class innovation in Tennessee.”

Event Details:

AgLaunch Demo Day & Innovation Forum
At the Global Action Summit
Monday, November 14th, 2016, 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Combine Mixer, hosted by Archer Malmo, to follow from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Board of Trust room, Student Life Center at Vanderbilt University
310 25th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37240
Register Here

AgLaunch Demo Day & Innovation Forum
Thursday, November 17th, 2016, 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Combine Mixer, hosted by Archer Malmo, to follow from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM
Halloran Centre
225 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Register Here

For more information about AgLaunch, please visit


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.

The AgLaunch 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, Farm Credit Mid-America, German Farms, Global Action Platform, GrowthX, Henderson Transloading, Informa Economics, Innova Memphis, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Life Science Tennessee, Little Bird Innovation, 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.