A blog for ag innovators and investors
If you missed this year’s Ag Showcase held in St. Louis on September 11 and 12, you missed possibly the best meeting that spotlights companies and topics all about agtech innovation.
A few highlights from the meeting:
First, about one-third of attendees were GAIN members. We started with zero members in 2010, so the growth in GAIN membership since then has been notable. If you are not a member and want to be part of this exciting and valuable network, contact Dena Cuppett at email@example.com.
Twenty-two companies developing innovative ag products and services presented their business proposition and investment opportunities to an audience of more than 300 investors, corporate representatives, and other ag industry stakeholders.
The whole slate of companies was very strong, many attendees commented that it was the strongest set of companies they had seen at any agtech meeting.
A few highlights include:
• Vision Robotics, who is developing an automated (robotic) citrus harvester
• TrophoMax who is commercializing the application of certain microbes to seeds and foliage to increase yields and biomass
• Arvens Technologies, who is commercializing a plant called Pennycress, a sustainable, non-food winter cover crop (planted in the same field as soybeans but harvested before planting the beans) whose seed has high oil content.
You can see a complete listing of presenting companies on the Ag Showcase website.
The panel presentation entitled “Discovering Tomorrows Ag Innovations” was extremely interesting. Panel members were Adam Anders, Rabo Ventures and Rick DeRose of Syngenta, Ian Puddephat, PEPSICO, and Andy Renz, BSAF. They listed four technologies that will be available in the future that will help address the challenges in agtech. They are:
1. The ability to sequence long molecules of DNA and the bioinformatics to help select for certain traits.
2. The integration of multiple variables to determine the best combination of field treatments, hybrid and pesticide control for a particular field.
3. An improved method for screening plants in growth chambers to select the best plants for field tests so the attrition rate decreases.
4. The improved production techniques/processes to increase the yield of useful plant products.
Challenges Facing Agtech
One challenge facing the ag innovation industry is the lack of understanding of the industry by limited partners (the pension funds, foundations and endowments that invest in venture capital funds). Ganesh Kishore of Burrill and Company, said more must be done to educate the limited partner community of the need for agtech and the returns it can provide them.
GAIN is undertaking efforts in this regard and welcomes any suggestions by emailing or contacting me.
The format for the 2012 Ag Showcase was much improved. Longer breaks and lunches helped maximize the time for networking, which also resulted in larger audiences to listen to the presenters because people were not out trying to network. Also gone from the agenda were speakers during lunch and the reception, again this resulted in more networking time.
Over all, the 2012 Ag Showcase was a resounding success. GAIN extends its thanks and congratulations to the organizers including The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG Park and Larta.