Author Archives: Master User

AgLaunch Propelling New Startups through Venture Investment & Farm-Centric Innovation Model

Applications Open for 2017 Accelerator with $50,000 Investment and Opportunity to Pitch to Industry Panel at Mid-South Farm Show

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (February 3, 2017) — AgLaunch™ continues to expand its farm-centric innovation platform to accelerate the process of bringing new ideas into agriculture. The organization offers a one-stop shop for researchers, farmers, logistic providers, processors, non-profits, investors and corporate partners to help validate and grow new ideas in the agricultural space. The initiative is focused on the Mid-South region with an international footprint through its open source programs and support network.

“With a growing world population, agriculture must advance and adapt to keep up,” Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton said. “Farmers are natural innovators. AgLaunch’s farm-focused model is matching farmers with new and improved technology and resources to help solve global problems, while catalyzing economic growth in our region.”

AgLaunch is pleased to announce three programs in 2017 that will advance agricultural innovation to the next level:

  • AgLaunch Accelerator will invest $50,000 and three months of intensive business development support, access to farm trials, and a robust mentor network to six startup companies. Participating startups will be immersed in a collaborative Summer of Acceleration experience in Memphis with six other business accelerators May 1- August 10. Entrepreneurial programming is supported through the expertise ofEPIcenter and Start Co., a member of the Global Accelerator Network that has led more than 80 startup companies. Startups will also have access to expert agri-marketing and legal advice provided by Archer Malmo and Baker Donelson respectively.
  • AgLaunch Farmer Network is working with a select group of startups to coordinate farm scale trials with new technologies across various production environments and key crops. Lead participants in the farmer network include Ritter Agribusiness and Mid-South Family Farms.
  • AgLaunch Startup Station is an all-day pitch contest held on March 3 in conjunction with the Mid-South Farm & Gin Show, which hosts more than 400 exhibitors and 20,000 farmers. Startups will pitch to expert panels comprised of farmers, investors, and corporate partners, including Farm Bureau, Farm Credit, DuPont, Monsanto Growth Ventures, and Case IH. The event will be preceded by The Combine reception the evening of March 2.

These AgLaunch initiatives focus on a range of technologies, including precision agriculture, robotics, automation, biologic-based pest control, specialty crops, equipment modifications, food ingredients, supply chain integrity and traceability, soil health, reduction of spray drift, food safety and reduction of food waste, water/input efficiencies and innovations in the supply chain.

“AgLaunch has a global network that includes mentors, investors, growers and ag industry leaders,” said Steve Bares, Ph.D., president and executive director, Memphis Bioworks Foundation. “Memphis provides the perfect opportunity to connect with all these assets, as farmers are a short drive away, investors are down the road, and entrepreneurial training and mentors are in-house. The Mississippi River offers convenient logistics, and our unique geographical location allows for incredibly diverse agriculture opportunities.”

The program adds value to investors through creating quality deal flow. “AgLaunch is uniquely connecting new technology with real farm experience to change the way that deals are being created for the benefit of investors and the ag industry,” said Matt Bell, Principal, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures.

AgLaunch helps startups through its combination of entrepreneurship programming and deep agricultural knowledge. “AgLaunch is a world-class initiative that is connecting all of the right partners and resources to bring new agricultural technologies to market,” said Barry Knight, Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations, North America, Indigo Ag.

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

For more information and to apply to the AgLaunch Accelerator, Farmer Network or Startup Station, visit our website or email

To view a video on the AgLaunch program click here and to view pitches from the 2016 AgLaunch Accelerator participants, click here.


About AgLaunch™ 

AgLaunch accelerates new innovations in food and agriculture. The organization addresses global issues while creating local opportunities in the Mid-South. AgLaunch connects agricultural researchers, entrepreneurs, farmers, investors, corporations and nonprofit organizations to address real farm and supply chain needs. AgLaunch is an initiative of Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and includes a robust group of public and private partners including University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture & Tennessee State University.



Margaret Oldham


Nine Companies Selected for NextFarm Agricultural Innovation Accelerator

NextFarm also hosting leading agricultural venture capitalist for events across Tennessee

MARTIN, Tenn. (Oct. 23, 2013) – The Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center and Memphis Bioworks Foundation are announcing the nine companies selected for the NextFarm Agriculture Innovation Accelerator.

Created in response to the challenge issued by Gov. Bill Haslam to make Tennessee the number-one state in the Southeast for the growth of the agricultural and forestry industries, NextFarm Agricultural Innovation Accelerator is led by a partnership between the Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center and Memphis Bioworks Foundation. The companies participating in the first accelerator program represent leading technologies and innovations related to precision agriculture, animal nutrition, specialty crops, food safety, biobased products and bioenergy. These companies are in the midst of an aggressive development period in preparation for investment pitches in the 1st quarter of 2014. The participating companies include five startups and four growth-track companies.

The five startup companies are:

  • AgSmarts is a precision agriculture company dedicated to helping farmers lower operational expenses while increasing crop yields through the deployment of their scalable technology platform.
  • Beyond Right Now Technologies is developing high-tech sensors to locate feral hogs, thus reducing the significant crop losses now being experienced by Tennessee farmers.
  • Hickory Hydroponics is commercializing a proprietary barley fodder system that leverages the use of existing on-farm assets.
  • Stony Creek Colors is a vertically integrated company developing the complete supply chain for replacing synthetic dyes with natural dyes from plants for the textile industry. The supply chain development includes the establishment of a small-farm network throughout the South.
  • Secure Food Solutions is commercializing technology developed at Mississippi State University and Agricultural Research Service USDA to make the corn supply safer, while making handling and delivery more efficient in the United States and in the developing world.

The four growth-track companies are:

  • Butler Fishery is developing expanded processing for Asian carp to create new markets for commercial fishers and reduce invasive species.
  • GrowAgra is building off of current success at producing wheat grass for Whole Foods Market and expanding its processing capabilities.
  • Tennessee BioProducts is developing biomass heat producing bricks from hardwood shavings and sawdust.
  • Zero Friction is commercializing a proprietary line of cleaning products and industrial lubricants produced with natural vegetable oils.

“These companies represent the kind of agricultural innovation that will be needed to address global issues, while at the same time creating entrepreneurial opportunities locally,” said Carol Reed, executive director of The Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center. “We are excited to provide an opportunity for investors to see these exciting companies.”

In addition, in order to raise the visibility of NextFarm and offer Tennessee universities and agricultural groups an opportunity to learn about investment in new innovation, NextFarm, in partnership with Life Science Tennessee (, is hosting Ron Meeusen, founding partner of Cultivian Ventures, on November 5 and 6 to provide insight into global investment trends in new agricultural technology. Ron has 30 years of experience in bringing new technologies and products to market. He has led research and development for major corporations in agricultural chemicals, field crop and vegetable genetics and breeding, animal health, novel foods and industrial materials. He also coordinated the development of a strategic plan for agriculture for the State of Indiana, which led to the realization of the major gap in venture funding in agriculture. His firm, Cultivian Ventures, was set up to address this gap. Ron has been a frequent speaker at conferences, a consultant to Federal policy on biotechnology regulatory issues, and active in industry trade groups on key issues such as European acceptance of new food technologies. The scheduled events are as follows:

  • Luncheon on Tuesday, November 5 starting at 11:00 a.m. in Nashville, Tenn., at Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings. More information at
  • Seminar on Tuesday, November 5 at 5:30 p.m. at University of Tennessee at Martin, in Martin, Tenn. More information at
  • Breakfast on Wednesday, November 6 at 7:30 a.m. at Dyersburg Chamber of Commerce in Dyersburg, Tenn. More information at

“Agriculture is a vital part of Tennessee’s economy, and by providing entrepreneurial expertise, we’re helping the industry grow and innovate while helping local entrepreneurs scale their businesses right here in Tennessee,” said Steve Bares, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

This project is funded under an agreement with Launch Tennessee and/or the State of Tennessee.


About Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center
The Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center (NTEC) is a public-private organization created as one of the nine regional accelerators established through Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s INCITE initiative. NTEC serves the nine counties of Benton, Carroll, Crockett, Dyer, Gibson, Henry, Lake, Obion, and Weakley by providing mentoring, education and training, strategic and technical support, and assistance identifying sources of capital for entrepreneurs with the goal of producing new jobs and steady economic growth within the nine-county area. For more information, visit, Facebook at or follow @NTECconnect on Twitter.

About Memphis Bioworks Foundation
Memphis Bioworks is the Mid-South’s go-to organization for creating companies, jobs and investments in bioscience and sustainability. A visionary community leader, Memphis Bioworks has a well-established record of sparking new levels of economic vitality by investing in entrepreneurs, building state-of-the-art labs and facilities, and training the next generation of workers. For more information, visit, Facebook at or follow @MemphisBioworks on Twitter.