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.