Category Archives: News Releases

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:

Nashville
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

Memphis
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 http://www.memphisbioworks.org/aglaunch/

###

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.

AgLaunch Takes Next Steps to Offer Full System of Support for Agri-Tech Startups

Includes new ag accelerator program; Initiative also ramps up seed investments and farm trial network

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug. 26, 2016) – AgLaunch, a joint initiative of Memphis Bioworks Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, today announced the inaugural cohort of a three-month, focused accelerator program. Additionally, the organization is kicking off several new initiatives that are positioning Tennessee and the surrounding region as a strategic area to start and grow agricultural innovation businesses. The new programs include an expanded farmer network, university boot camps, and targeted programs to assist agricultural businesses in distressed rural counties in Tennessee.  AgLaunch programs are coordinated by Ag Innovation Development Group (AgIDG), a wholly owned subsidiary of Memphis Bioworks Foundation, leveraging the expertise of a world-class group of regional partners.

Four startup companies were selected to receive a $50,000 investment and participate in three months of intense entrepreneurial programming and business development. AgIDG will provide agricultural expertise and resources, leveraging entrepreneurial programming provided by Start Co., a member of the Global Accelerator Network that has led accelerator programs for more than 80 startup companies. The AgLaunch Accelerator is funded in part by Launch Tennessee. The companies that are receiving investment and accelerator support are:

  • Cowlar is a wearable device for cows to improve herd health and optimize operations developed for dairy, with additional applications in other livestock. Cattle is a multi-billion dollar industry in Tennessee, involving more than 50,000 farms.
  • Secure Food Solutions offers quick and low-cost innovations to detect pathogens in the food supply chain based on patented technology licensed from a local university and USDA. Secure Food Solutions supports Tennessee’s food processing industry, which includes more than 1,000 companies.
  • Skycision provides a solution that facilitates early detection of crop stress through the analysis of drone-collected imagery. Growers save time in scouting and can pinpoint the precise locations in their fields that need to be treated for various pest, disease, or water stress. Skycision’s start was in vineyards and now looks to expand its solution to specialty row crops, commodities, and orchards.
  • YieldStart is commercializing a biobased absorbent technology for use in 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.

An additional startup is the latest to participate in critical support services provided by AgIDG through its regional farmer network:

  • AgVoice is a voice-to-data service for agriculture, which increases the efficiency and accuracy of collecting farm data for crop scouts. AgVoice will be the subject of a multi-farm, production-scale trial across several crops and production scenarios, which will generate valuable data to help take the company to the next level as well as position farmers in Tennessee and the surrounding region with the opportunity to access the technology at an accelerated pace.

“As the global ag industry continues to evolve, it’s imperative that we develop innovative companies that can create the technologies, techniques and products that will help tackle our world’s most complex challenges related to food and water supply,” said Commissioner Jai Templeton of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.  “Supporting new companies in the agricultural space helps our farmers, but also creates new jobs across the agricultural value chain especially in rural communities,” he said.

In addition to the Accelerator and farmer network, AgLaunch is assisting in the creation of university boot camps and programs that target distressed rural counties in Tennessee.

  • Ag3DS, a three-day business boot camp for UT students, faculty, and staff from across the state, is being hosted by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture in Knoxville on September 30 through October 2.   The program is intended to be replicated at agricultural universities across the region.
  • Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, with funding from USDA and Tennessee Department of Agriculture, will model a program to engage rural communities, including distressed counties, in identifying and ramping up new business ideas. KEC is also exploring the feasibility of a rural agri-tech incubator facility, as well as hosting an agri-tech accelerator program later this fall.

“We are excited to see the creation of a variety of tools to help new agricultural-based startups in Tennessee that will create jobs, support our farmers, and help provide global solutions,” said Tim Cross, Ph.D., interim-chancellor, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. “UTIA is committed to helping leverage our resources to support new startups and create startups from technology created at the university.”

“Our partnership with Tennessee Department of Agriculture, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, and a broad range of groups across the state and region are creating an exciting ecosystem to offer a full range of support for creating and growing new startups,” said Steve Bares, Ph.D., President and Executive Director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation. “We anticipate announcing additional programming and capital sources over the next couple of months so that we can provide needed resources to even more agricultural entrepreneurs in Tennessee.”

AgLaunch Accelerator teams will showcase their technologies this fall in demonstration events across Tennessee, culminating in a Demo Day at Memphis Bioworks Foundation in Memphis on Nov. 17, 2016, where the startups will pitch their businesses to investors and industry leaders.

For more information about AgLaunch, please visit http://www.memphisbioworks.org/aglaunch/

###

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.

Seventeen Startups Presented Business Plans at Memphis Demo Day Aug. 11

Included teams spanning logistics, women-led enterprise, social innovation, early-stage technology, music industry innovation, medical technology & university collaboration

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug. 11, 2016) – EPIcenter, Start Co., and ZeroTo510 today hosted Memphis Demo Day, where 17 startup teams who completed this year’s groundbreaking “Summer of Acceleration” pitched their businesses from the stage at the Orpheum’s Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education in Downtown Memphis.

Teams pitched their businesses and progress to-date, including key milestones and partnerships, as well as the development of products, networks, customer acquisitions, and sourcing strategies. The more than 300 attendees included successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, community supporters and investors from throughout the Mid-South.

“We’re incredibly proud of this year’s cohorts, as each team has made significant strides in developing their businesses since the summer began,” said Eric Mathews, founder and CEO of Start Co. “It’s been rewarding to watch how each startup has evolved and progressed through the accelerators’ intensive programming – from redefining business plans, to sharpening business models, to attracting new partners and customers, to ultimately presenting at Demo Day.”

Demo Day was the culmination of this year’s joint summer accelerator program, which began on May 2. It was an effort to bring the region’s six vertical-specific startup accelerators and one student accelerator together through the rigorous entrepreneurial programming, taught by the region’s top accelerator experts. Each team split time between core curricula at Start Co. and industry-specific activities, led by their respective accelerator cohort director. The entrepreneurs also networked with potential customers, mentors, industry partners and investment capital sources during the summer.

“While cross-collaboration among these startups from different industries was an intended outcome of this partnership, we underestimated the benefits it would bring to our participants,” said Leslie Lynn Smith, president of EPIcenter, the convening partner of the collaboration. “We know now that co-locating these companies together at Start Co. and overlaying industry expertise that is only available in Memphis has helped these startups grow exponentially.”

Teams also participated in Start-Q during the Memphis in May International Festival World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest, which brought founders and business leaders from across the country together for networking events and entrepreneurial programming.

Sponsors of Demo Day included American Airlines, Archer Malmo, AutoZone, Baker Donelson, FedEx, Global Accelerator Network, Hulsey Hunt Parks PC, LBMC, The Marston Group and Mosaik Solutions.

Information about each team can be found below.

2016 Accelerator Teams:

EPIcenter Logistics Innovation Accelerator, sponsored by FedEx, was created to help startups bring innovative logistics products and technologies to market. It is comprised of the following teams:

  • NovoNav — Provides a personal navigation platform that solves the issue of “Last segment” navigation in areas or buildings that are not mapped.
  • iShipdit — Expedia-like platform for matching less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments to unused space that exists on trucks every day.
  • SILQ — Relationship management platform that provides actionable intelligence and insights using machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Seed Hatchery, Memphis’ first accelerator, is one of 50 full members of the Global Accelerator Network and focuses on software and hardware as a service for enterprise customers. Its cohort this year includes:

  • FitNexx – An interactive virtual reality platform that encourages children to exercise through the use of simulated environments and fitness games.
  • FrontDesk Connect – Unveils an alternative solution to the in-room hotel phone by adding a quick connect capability to the guests’ own mobile device at check-in.
  • ProxBox – Tailored initially for the real estate market, ProxBox combines proximity sensors with a mobile app to guide potential home buyers through the home in a self-paced manner. Potential buyers receive details room by room by standing near a ProxBox sensor.

Sky High, a social impact accelerator to build innovative business models to address challenges in the Memphis metro area, is comprised of the following teams:

  • Org Connect – Combines Salesforce and Dropbox into one program, solving the painful problem that PTA associations have with maintaining record donors, documents, and best practices when there is turnover, i.e. when students (and their parents) graduate.
  • One Step Initiative – A social enterprise that partners with universities and community colleges to expose, empower, and instill skills in underserved high school students via international exchange programs, technology, and service models that make them desired higher education students.

Start MMT, one of the world’s first music industry innovation accelerators, was founded in conjunction with Hall of Fame Songwriter David Porter. Its inaugural cohort includes:

  • EPKpage – A web-based platform that makes it easy for musicians to create professional electronic press kits and for venues to effectively vet musicians and their credentials.
  • Memphis Media Technology – A technology platform that produces plug-ins and other software solutions in the audio engineering space.

Upstart, one of the top ten women-led technology startup accelerators in the world, is comprised of the following teams:

  • Coursicle – A course scheduling software and notification service to help college students easily plan their schedules and get into the classes they need to graduate.
  • Homey – A mobile app for gamified management of household chores that organizes tasks by taking pictures of the mess and assigning the work to individual family members. Kids complete chores and earn rewards that parents can buy through the app.
  • ZoomThru – Turns your car into a wallet using license plate recognition technology to initiate hands free payment at fast food restaurants, parking garages, dry cleaners and other drive-thru locations.

ZeroTo510, founded by Memphis Bioworks Foundation, has been named one of the top 25 accelerator programs in the country by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project for two years in a row. ZeroTo510 focuses on medical technology innovation that takes advantage of the FDA’s 510k regulatory pathway; its teams include:

  • SOMAVAC — Creates solutions for the management of post-surgical fluid accumulation after surgeries like mastectomies and hernia removal. SOMAVAC helps patients at home with a wearable, ultra-low profile, low-power suction device that is comfortable and easy to conceal under clothing.
  • FlexSpark — A wearable electrical muscle stimulation device used to supplement anticoagulants in DVT prevention. By stimulating the muscles in a way that causes muscle contractions, FlexSpark also decreases the rate of muscle atrophy that occurs in a patient demographic that often has limited mobility.
  • Cast21 — Cast21 has designed a lightweight, lattice-structure cast that is customizable, breathable and waterproof, eliminating some of the disadvantages of traditional casts. Its design also allows for the integration of electronic therapies to decrease healing time.
  • RistCall — A wearable wrist monitor that replaces the traditional call button in hospitals and nursing care facilities. RistCall’s technology provides patients with an easily accessible communication device and integrates into a shared dashboard for nurses and administrators.

ImagineU, a first-of-its-kind collaboration of seven Memphis colleges and universities (Christian Brothers University, Southwest Tennessee Community College, LeMoyne-Owen College, University of Memphis, Visible Music College, Memphis College of Art and Rhodes College), helps students bring business ideas to fruition. ImagineU is housed at the University of Memphis Crews Center for Entrepreneurship and partnered with The College Initiative.

###

About EPIcenter:

EPIcenter is the hub of the Greater Memphis entrepreneurship movement. With its network of partners, EPIcenter is the enabler of unified strategies to increase support to new and existing entrepreneurs for business growth. Serving as the broader voice of the partner network and a single point of accountability, EPIcenter measures and celebrates the impact of entrepreneurial support to create a just, inclusive, and growing economy that accrues to all Memphians. More information is at epimemphis.com.

About Start Co.:

Start Co. is a nationally recognized nonprofit 501(c)(3) venture development organization based in Memphis, Tennessee, that relentlessly builds founders and companies, promoting entrepreneurship for everyone with a focus on digital startups. Start Co. is a member of the Global Accelerator Network and aims to advance Memphis’ economic growth through entrepreneurship. The organization is supported by partners including American Airlines, Archer Malmo, Baker Donelson, The Marston Group, Mosaik Solutions and Softlayer (an IBM company). More information can be found at neverstop.co.

About ZeroTo510:

ZeroTo510 is unique among accelerator programs in that it focuses on medical devices, leveraging the regional strengths of the Memphis area. The goal of the three-month, mentor-driven program is to help medical device entrepreneurs navigate the start-up process, refine their business models and achieve the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) pre-market notification filing. ZeroTo510 has been named as one of the top 25 business accelerators in the United States by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project for the past two years and was founded as a collaboration between Memphis Bioworks Foundation and venture capital firms Innova Memphis and MB Venture Partners. More information is at zeroto510.com.

Untitled

CONTACT:     

Jessica Taveau                                                               
Memphis Bioworks for EPIcenter and ZeroTo510
JTaveau@memphisbioworks.org
901-866-1435

Lauren Whisenant Waites                                                        
Archer Malmo for Start Co.                                                                       
LWaites@archermalmo.com                                                                     
901-260-4121                                                                                               

Memphis Bioworks Awarded Nearly $4M Department of Labor Grant

Job training and placement program to also offer child care and transportation support

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (June 14, 2016) — Memphis Bioworks Foundation today was awarded a nearly $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor as part of its Strengthening Working Families Initiative.

In the Memphis region, the funding will be used to facilitate short-term job training, coaching, and job placement for unemployed or underemployed parents in Fayette, Lauderdale, Shelby, and Tipton Counties. This program will include supportive services, including funding for and access to child care resources and transportation assistance.

“This grant enables a comprehensive workforce development approach to connecting parents in our region to new skills and new job opportunities while also providing support for their families,” said Steve Bares, PhD, president and executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

Training will be targeted in advanced manufacturing, health care and information technology careers.

The program’s goals are to provide grant-funded services and education/training to more than 500 participants by June 2020.

In addition, Memphis Bioworks will consult with the Employer Advisory Council it manages for insight and input on job training curricula, industry trends, essential skills training, and employment opportunities.

The grant will be administered among training and community partners and employers by the Memphis Bioworks workforce development team, led by Sondra Howell, Director of Workforce Development.

For more information:

###

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 www.memphisbioworks.org, Facebook at www.facebook.com/MemphisBioworks or follow @MemphisBioworks on Twitter.

 

Contact:

Jessica Taveau
Memphis Bioworks Foundation
901-866-1435
jtaveau@memphisbioworks.org

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.

###

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.

Unprecedented Community Collaboration Recruits Businesses to Memphis

More than 50 startup founders and students will grow their businesses through seven accelerators in joint partnership

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Apr. 19, 2016) – For the first time, EPIcenter, Start Co. and ZeroTo510 are today announcing a partnership of six industry-specific startup accelerators and one student accelerator that will host more than 20 technology-based teams from around the world and 12 students from seven universities in Memphis this summer. The joint accelerator program will kick off on May 2 and is operated by EPIcenter, hub of the greater Memphis entrepreneurship movement, and Start Co., a member of the Global Accelerator Network. The 100-day-long “Summer of Acceleration” will culminate in the region’s largest Demo Day on Aug. 11 at the Halloran Center in Downtown Memphis.

Teams that participate in any of the seven accelerators will collectively experience the rigorous entrepreneurial startup programming curriculum, have access to potential customers, mentors, and industry partners, and be able to network with investment capital groups. All teams will also spend time focused on industry- and sector-specific curriculum activities in each individual accelerator cohort.

“We’re not aware of another market executing this kind of entrepreneurial collaboration, especially through student and industry-specific accelerators – industries in which our region has a competitive advantage,” said Leslie Smith, President of EPIcenter. “Having more than 50 founders of startups coming to Memphis to participate in these accelerators this summer puts Memphis on the map as a vibrant destination in which to start and grow a business.”

Applications for the accelerators were due in March, and participating teams will be announced May 2. The seven partner accelerator programs include:

  • EPIcenter Logistics Innovation Accelerator was created to help startups bring innovative logistics products and technologies to market and is sponsored by FedEx.
  • ImagineU is a first-of-its-kind collaboration of seven Memphis colleges and universities to provide a true startup acceleration experience to help their student teams bring business ideas to fruition. ImagineU is developed and sponsored by Christian Brothers University, Southwest Tennessee Community College, LeMoyne-Owen College, University of Memphis, Visible Music College, Memphis College of Art, Rhodes College and community partner The College Initiative, and it is housed at the University of Memphis Crews Center for Entrepreneurship.
  • Seed Hatchery was Memphis’ first accelerator and focuses on software and hardware as a service for enterprise customers. Seed Hatchery is one of 50 full members of the Global Accelerator Network.
  • Sky High: is a social impact program to build innovative business models to address challenges in the Memphis metro area.
  • Start MMT was founded in conjunction with Hall of Fame Songwriter David Porter and is one of the first music industry innovation accelerators to operate in the world. They will be holding their inaugural cohort this year.
  • Upstart is one of the top ten women-led technology startup accelerators in the world and one of 50 full members of the Global Accelerator Network.
  • ZeroTo510, founded by and housed at Memphis Bioworks Foundation, has been named one of the top 25 accelerator programs in the country by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project for two years running. ZeroTo510 focuses on medical technology innovation that takes advantage of the FDA’s 510k regulatory pathway.

EPIcenter is the convening agent of the collaboration, and, for the first time, all seven accelerators will be supported by Start Co.’s core accelerator programming. This core accelerator programming will take place among all accelerators at Start Co., and the partnering accelerator operator will handle the industry-specific programming.  Logistics expertise will be coordinated and provided by EPIcenter for its innovation accelerator. Start Co. will provide B2B IT and social innovation expertise, as well as customized support for female founders, for its Seed Hatchery, Sky High, and Upstart accelerator cohorts.  The Consortium MMT will provide music-industry specific programming for the Start MMT program.  Memphis Bioworks will provide medical device expertise for the ZeroTo510 cohort. While ImagineU does not have a specific sector focus, students will be matched with subject matter experts and mentors based on the focus of their business.

“With the increased density of teams, investors, partners, and mentors, startup founders will experience dramatically improved idea velocity and enhanced value creation.  The individual accelerator programs would find it hard to attain this in isolation,” said Eric Mathews, founder and CEO of Start Co. “All the participants will reap the benefits that occur with the increased creative collisions with teams from varied industry verticals, as well as the assembled technology and creative community in the area.”

Both Start Co. and EPIcenter have the experience and expertise to deliver world-class startup support. EPIcenter, led by Leslie Smith, formerly CEO of TechTown in Detroit, Mich., is supporting the rapid increase of local entrepreneurial activity and serves a common voice for change in the Memphis community.  Start Co. is one of the most experienced venture development organizations in the Southeast, having operated 11 accelerator cohorts and co-built another four accelerator programs within the last five years.

Investment partners include Innova, a Memphis-based venture capital fund that is leading the co-investment into the accelerator teams participating in ZeroTo510, Seed Hatchery, Upstart, and EPIcenter Logistics, as well as MB Venture Partners, The JumpFund, and Wolf River Angels. Program partners include Launch Tennessee, the Chairman’s Circle of the Greater Memphis Chamber, Memphis Bioworks, Baker Donelson, American Airlines, IBM, Amazon, Paypal, Archer Malmo, Mosaik Solutions, The Marston Group, Waller, and many more.

About EPIcenter:

EPIcenter is the hub of the Greater Memphis entrepreneurship movement.  With its network of partners, EPIcenter is the enabler of unified strategies to increase support to new and existing entrepreneurs for business growth.  Serving as the broader voice of the partner network and a single point of accountability, EPIcenter measures and celebrates the impact of entrepreneurial support to create a just, inclusive, and growing economy that accrues to all Memphians. More information is at epimemphis.com.

About Start Co.:

Start Co. is a nationally recognized nonprofit 501(c)(3) venture development organization based in Memphis, Tennessee, that relentlessly builds founders and companies, promoting entrepreneurship for everyone with a focus on digital startups. Start Co. is a member of the Global Accelerator Network and aims to advance Memphis’ economic growth through entrepreneurship. The organization is supported by partners including American Airlines, Archer Malmo, Baker Donelson, The Marston Group, Mosaik Solutions and Softlayer (an IBM company).  More information can be found at neverstop.co.

About ZeroTo510:

ZeroTo510 is unique among accelerator programs in that it focuses on medical devices, leveraging the regional strengths of the Memphis area.  The goal of the three-month, mentor-driven program is to help medical device entrepreneurs navigate the start-up process, refine their business models and achieve the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) pre-market notification filing. ZeroTo510 has been named as one of the top 25 business accelerators in the United States by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project for the past two years and is operated by Memphis Bioworks Foundation. More information is at zeroto510.com.

###

CONTACT:                                                                                                           

Naomi Bata
Archer Malmo for Start Co.
nbata@archermalmo.com
901-260-4143

Jessica Taveau
Memphis Bioworks for EPIcenter and ZeroTo510
JTaveau@memphisbioworks.org
901-866-1435

ZeroTo510 Named Top 25 U.S. Accelerator

The ZeroTo510 Medical Device Accelerator has been announced as one of the top accelerators in the country for the second year in a row.  The Memphis-based accelerator has been named as one of the top 25 business accelerators in the United States out of only 150 programs that were invited to participate this year.  The new rankings were announced today at SXSW and in TechCrunch.

For 2016, the rankings have moved to a tier system, with no ordinal ranking within tier, and all programs are listed in alphabetical order within tier. A silver-tier program, ZeroTo510 is the only accelerator in Tennessee ranked among platinum, gold and silver tiers.

From TechCrunch: “There’s a bigger difference between bronze and silver than there is between gold and silver. Achieving gold is something to be proud of. But these are all top, top, and top programs, not top, middle, and bottom programs,” said Susan Cohen of the University of Richmond.

The rankings are provided by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project and are based on detailed confidential data on accelerator portfolio outcomes, producing the most complete and comprehensive dataset on accelerator performance available. To be invited to participate in the rankings, accelerator programs had to meet several criteria. First, they had to meet the definition of accelerator: Programs had to be fixed-term, cohort-based startup “boot-camps” that include educational and mentorship components and culminate in public pitch or demo day. They also had to have graduated at least one cohort and have more than 10 startup graduates. The research team also surveyed graduates of the accelerator programs to assess satisfaction. Nearly 1,000 accelerator graduates participated in the survey.

The Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, the brainchild of Yael Hochberg, an entrepreneurship professor at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business and researcher with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Innovation Initiative Lab for Innovation Science, Susan Cohen, an assistant professor of management at Richmond’s Robins School of Business, and Dan Fehder, a PhD candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management, are based on a variety of metrics, including the valuations of participating startups, amount of funding raised by participating startups, startups’ survival rates and ratings provided by program graduates.

“There are new accelerator programs popping up very month,” Hochberg said. “Our goal is to generate a larger conversation about what makes some seed accelerators more successful and help entrepreneurs find the right fit for their startup.”

“With so many programs available, it’s hard for entrepreneurs to know which programs are best,” Cohen said. “The Seed Accelerator Rankings Project adds needed transparency to help entrepreneurs make a critically important decision for their startups.”

Applications for the fifth cohort of ZeroTo510, the leading entrepreneurship accelerator program for medical device products and services with a demonstrated track record of success in bringing start-up companies to market, will be accepted until March 15, 2016.

ZeroTo510 is unique among accelerator programs in that it focuses on medical devices, leveraging the regional strengths of the Memphis area.  The goal of the three-month, mentor-driven program is to help medical device entrepreneurs navigate the start-up process, refine their business models and achieve the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) pre-market notification filing.

Now in its fifth year, the program has accelerated the creation of 20 new companies, $9.2 million in investments, and more than 40 jobs. In addition, 60 percent of graduates have received post-accelerator follow-on funding, at an average of $675,000 per company. The nationally recognized program has attracted entrepreneurs from the Memphis area and from outside the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, including Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Duke University in Durham, N.C., and from Washington, D.C., Little Rock, Ark., and Chihuahua, Mexico. Among these companies’ successes: five have completed the FDA clearance or exemption process and have products in the marketplace generating revenue. As the first-ever medical device accelerator, ZeroTo510 is now recognized as a benchmark model for medical device accelerators both nationally and internationally.

Through a competitive application process, up to six companies will be selected for the 2016 cohort and will receive $50,000 in initial seed capital from co-investors Innova, a pre-seed, seed and early-stage investor focused on starting and funding high-growth companies in the healthcare, technology and healthcare technology fields across the state of Tennessee; and MB Venture Partners, a Memphis-based venture capital firm that provides equity capital and strategic direction to life sciences start-ups. ZeroTo510 is operated by Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

ZeroTo510 is also an integral part of EPIcenter, which serves as a central point of contact for the Memphis region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and coordinates resources from various organizations in the community such as accelerators, incubators, mentors, investors, networking programs, and technical assistance programs for entrepreneurs.  Together with the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, Memphis Bioworks, Emerge Memphis, Start Co., and other partners, EPIcenter is pursuing a common goal of creating a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Memphis to service the Mid-South region. Beyond the accelerator process, ZeroTo510 participants will also have access to EPIcenter-led collaborations among entrepreneurial support organizations in Memphis, as well as expertise and support from the full entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.

Information on applying and additional information about the ZeroTo510 program is available at http://www.zeroto510.com.

ZeroTo510 is funded under an agreement with Launch Tennessee and/or the State of Tennessee.

About the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project

The Seed Accelerator Rankings Project aims to begin a larger conversation about what makes seed accelerators successful and to provide entrepreneurs with a tool to help them decide which seed accelerators are a good match for their startup. Confidential data provided by accelerator programs and accelerator alumni are incorporated into the evaluation process.

The rankings team is led by Hochberg, Cohen and Fehder. All three are former entrepreneurs turned academics and are considered among the leading research experts on accelerators and their efficacy.

For more information about the project, go to www.seedrankings.com.

Memphis Workforce Development Activities Recognized at White House

Partnership focused on customer-centered services chosen as successful national model

MEMPHIS, Tennessee, February 22, 2016 – Memphis’ leadership in workforce development activities was recognized at the White House last week.

The Memphis Bioworks Foundation Workforce Development team, along with the Workforce Investment Network, led a collaborative project of community organizations as part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Customer Centered Design Challenge over the last few months. The Challenge focused on innovation, enhanced customer experience, cross-government collaboration, and design thinking methods to transform the delivery of services for youth, job-seekers, and employers.

The Memphis team, in recognition of its demonstrated success with the project, was selected as one of 11 teams out of 80 nationwide to participate in a Customer Centered Design (CCD) White House Learning Exchange & Celebration on Tuesday, February 16. Bioworks’ Director of Workforce Development, Sondra Howell, was invited to participate on a panel of only three teams to talk about their successful projects. The other two presenting teams were from California and Colorado.

“The Human Centered Design Process provided our team the structure to not only assess the gaps in services available to our joint workforce customers in the Memphis region, but to also gauge the effectiveness of the services we provide individually, as well as collectively,” said Howell.

In the congratulatory note to Sondra Howell and the Delta Force-Memphis team, Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary of Employment and Training for the U.S. Department of Labor wrote, “I am writing to congratulate and thank you and your team for your participation in the Customer Centered Design (CCD) Project. The innovative ideas outlined in your proposal to improve and provide excellent customer service at One-Stop Centers contribute to the successful implementation of the Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA).”

Memphis project team members are:

  • Sondra Howell, Director of Workforce Development, Memphis Bioworks
  • Kevin Woods, Executive Director, Workforce Investment Network
  • Jessica Croslow, H-1B Coordinator, Southwest Tennessee Community College
  • Beth Erb, Vice President of Community Services, Memphis Goodwill, Inc.
  • Eva Mosby, Project Manager Human Services North America, Maximus
  • Gwen White, Foundation and Public Relations Coordinator, Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Memphis
  • Travis Wilson, Business Service Manager, Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce
  • Renee McCreight, Director, Memphis Talent Dividend

The U.S. Department of Labor initiated this challenge as part of their implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to encourage innovation in designing services with jobseeker and employer needs as the primary focus. Additional information about the Customer Centered Design Challenge is available at https://wioa.workforce3one.org.

# # #

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 www.memphisbioworks.org, Facebook at www.facebook.com/MemphisBioworks or follow @MemphisBioworks on Twitter.

ZeroTo510 Medical Device Accelerator Accepting Applications

Deadline for fifth cohort of nationally ranked accelerator is March 15

MEMPHIS, Tennessee, February 22, 2016 – Applications for the fifth cohort of ZeroTo510, the leading entrepreneurship accelerator program for medical device products and services with a demonstrated track record of success in bringing start-up companies to market, will be accepted until March 15, 2016.

ZeroTo510 is unique among accelerator programs in that it focuses on medical devices, leveraging the regional strengths of the Memphis area.  The goal of the three-month, mentor-driven program is to help medical device entrepreneurs navigate the start-up process, refine their business models and achieve the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) pre-market notification filing.

Now in its fifth year, the program has accelerated the creation of 20 new companies, $9.2 million in investments, and more than 40 jobs. In addition, 60 percent of graduates have received post-accelerator follow-on funding, at an average of $675,000 per company. The nationally recognized program has attracted entrepreneurs from the Memphis area and from outside the local entrepreneurial ecosystem, including Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Duke University in Durham, N.C., and from Washington, D.C., Little Rock, Ark., and Chihuahua, Mexico. Among these companies’ successes: five have completed the FDA clearance or exemption process and have products in the marketplace generating revenue. As the first-ever medical device accelerator, ZeroTo510 is now recognized as a benchmark model for medical device accelerators both nationally and internationally.

Highlights from 2015 include:

  • In March, ZeroTo510 was announced as one of the top 15 accelerators in the United States (and the only medical device accelerator on the list) by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. The ranking was announced at SXSW and in TechCrunch.
  • In July, GlucosAlarm won first place in the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I competition at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Also in July, Inspire Living, from Fairfax Station, Va., a start-up company offering a portable pediatric health monitor, was named by independent experts as a leading innovation in the maternal, child, and newborn health category as part of Reimagining Global Health, the inaugural report of the Innovation Countdown 2030 initiative. Reimagining Global Health was officially launched at the third UN Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • In December, SweetBio, a medical device startup specializing in wound healing biomaterials and focusing in dental, raised an additional $900,000 of equity financing to support FDA 510(k) clearance and commercialization of the SweetBio GTR (Guided Tissue Regeneration) Membrane.
  • Just this month, 2015 ZeroTo510 graduate LineGard Med raised an additional $800,000 in funding to continue development of its SafeBreak IV device and submit its 510(k) clearance filing to the FDA.

“In our fifth year, we’re leveraging our national ranking and our graduates’ successes to reach a global applicant pool,” said Allan Daisley, president and co-founder of ZeroTo510.  “Alongside our community’s robust medical device industry, ZeroTo510 is consistently attracting innovative technologies, businesses and jobs right here to Memphis.”

Process

Through a competitive application process, up to six companies will be selected for the 2016 cohort and will receive $50,000 in initial seed capital from co-investors Innova, a pre-seed, seed and early-stage investor focused on starting and funding high-growth companies in the healthcare, technology and healthcare technology fields across the state of Tennessee; and MB Venture Partners, a Memphis-based venture capital firm that provides equity capital and strategic direction to life sciences start-ups. ZeroTo510 is operated by Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

ZeroTo510 is also an integral part of EPIcenter, which serves as a central point of contact for the Memphis region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and coordinates resources from various organizations in the community such as accelerators, incubators, mentors, investors, networking programs, and technical assistance programs for entrepreneurs.  Together with the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, Memphis Bioworks, Emerge Memphis, Start Co., and other partners, EPIcenter is pursuing a common goal of creating a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Memphis to service the Mid-South region. Beyond the accelerator process, ZeroTo510 participants will also have access to EPIcenter-led collaborations among entrepreneurial support organizations in Memphis, as well as expertise and support from the full entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region.

At the end of the three-month program, the participants will pitch to a group of investors at the community’s Memphis Demo Day on August 11, 2016. The investors will select finalists, who will receive an additional negotiated capital infusion and the opportunity to further develop their businesses.

An entrepreneurship program for medical devices is an ideal match for the resources and talents in the Memphis area, which has the second-largest concentration of medical device companies in the United States.  Typically, it can take several years for ideas to pass through the traditional FDA regulatory process.  The 510(k) process provides an expedited path to market, and as such makes a good fit for an accelerator program.

“Our 2015 cohort was particularly successful because we’ve refined our selection criteria in order to match our cohort companies to mentors and resources specific to Memphis,” Jan Bouten, partner at Innova and ZeroTo510 co-founder. “As investors, we’re also happy to see many of these resources resulting from collaborations across the greater entrepreneurial ecosystem through EPIcenter.”

“Beyond capital, we are proud to connect these companies to expertise and customers in the medical device ecosystem here,” said Gary Stevenson, co-founder and managing partner of MB Venture Partners and a member of the ZeroTo510 board of directors.  “There’s no better place to build a medical device business than in Memphis.”

Timeline

  • Applications to participate in ZeroTo510 are due by March 15.
  • Companies selected for participation will be notified by April 2.
  • The program will begin on May 2.

Competition for participation in the program is open internationally.  However, companies selected must be based in Memphis for the duration of the program.

Information on applying and additional information about the ZeroTo510 program is available at http://www.zeroto510.com.

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

# # #

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 www.memphisbioworks.org, Facebook at www.facebook.com/MemphisBioworks or follow @MemphisBioworks on Twitter.

Memphis Bioworks Hires Agriculture Innovator Pete Nelson to Lead Expanded Agri-Food Initiatives

Nelson’s Ag Innovation Development Group to be Merged into Bioworks
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis Bioworks Foundation today announced several steps in enhancing its position in the growing field of agriculture innovation, food security, and new venture development. Pete Nelson, a consultant and partner with Memphis Bioworks for nearly a decade, has joined the Bioworks team as Vice President of Agriculture Innovation. In addition, Ag Innovation Development Group (AgIDG), founded by Nelson and Brian Goodwin, will be incorporated into Bioworks and will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary. Nelson’s consulting business will also be rolled into the Bioworks offerings as a part of AgIDG.
 
“Pete has demonstrated time after time, both in his work in partnership with Memphis Bioworks and within his own projects, companies, and initiatives, that he is creative, entrepreneurial and well-respected across the agriculture landscape by farmers, investors, entrepreneurs, community stakeholders and researchers,” said Steve Bares, PhD, president and executive director, Memphis Bioworks Foundation. “Adding Pete to the Bioworks team and establishing him as the leader of ag innovation is a major step for the organization. Under his leadership, we will take this field to a new level in the region. He will also be a strong resource for other Bioworks organizations, especially Innova, which invests in early-stage, high-growth companies that have the potential to grow into significant economic contributors. Innova is currently working with several members of the Farm Credit System and other investors to launch an early-stage AgTech Fund under the USDA’s RBIC program.” 
 
“We will focus on creating an innovation platform to attract, start, and grow agricultural startup companies, dramatically expanding the crops that are grown in the region through breeding and crop development efforts, and adopting a wide range of production practices, including expanded precision agricultural adoptions and new production methodologies, such as organic,” said Nelson.  “A key component of this transformational initiative is to be intentional about creating opportunities for women and minorities within the agricultural sector.” 
 
This platform includes AgLaunch, a statewide business acceleration program being developed with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture with support from Tennessee State University, USDA, Delta Regional Authority, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Launch Tennessee and other partners. AgLaunch has the goal of stimulating the development of 100 new startups and growth ventures over the next five years. Nelson’s work will also include encouraging workforce programs that connect school learning gardens to educational pathways that lead to high-tech ag jobs, increasing the pool of investment capital into the ag innovation sector, and encouraging on-farm innovation and small farmer support programs.  
 
“The first step toward achieving this vision was to consolidate projects and initiatives under one leadership model that we believe will optimize efficiencies and connections that would be missed by operating separately,” added Nelson. “I view it as creating the ideal intersection point of the ‘big picture’ work from Nelson Consulting, the deal flow management of AgIDG, and the investment and entrepreneurial background of Bioworks.”
 
AgIDG will operate as a wholly owned, for-profit subsidiary of Bioworks, and will continue its focus on commercializing early-stage agricultural innovation to bring new tools to farmers and near-term liquidity event opportunities to its investors. The company will also be engaged in consulting related to helping companies, farmers and organizations create new initiatives and vision in the agricultural space. More information on the company can be found here.  
 
Nelson’s position with Memphis Bioworks begins immediately. The merger of AgIDG into Memphis Bioworks is expected to be completed in early 2016.