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More than 120 applications from 26 countries were submitted for the seven spots in Yield Lab’s 2016 class. The nation’s first and largest agriculture technology business accelerator announced its second round of portfolio companies tonight at an event at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The new cohort begins its programming at the Helix Center on January 26.
The nine-month program provides up to $100,000 in funding to emerging AgTech companies, along with specialized curriculum and one-on-one mentorship. Participants aren’t required to move to St. Louis, but they all travel to the Midwest each month for two days of programming. Yield Lab Managing Partner Thad Simons says he excited for this second class.
“We launched our first portfolio companies just a year ago and the quality and diversity of this second portfolio is the next step after a successful year,” he says. “Without the support of the St. Louis ecosystem and industry professionals with a keen interest in what we are doing, we would not be where we are.”
Since its inception, Yield Lab has held the mission of bringing together innovative technologies focused on improving productivity, enhancing knowledge and merging historically independent ecosystems into a more cohesive agricultural system. The accelerator receives support on the local level through a solid framework of ag-focused individuals, companies and organizations.
Agriculture is a leading industry in the greater St. Louis area, providing over 20% of the area’s employment and generating $75 billion in global economic value.
“With [this] second class, they are making a sizable contribution to the momentum in St. Louis’ standing as a center for AgTech startups, and more broadly, biosciences innovation,” said Donn Rubin, President and CEO of BioSTL, the nonprofit civic organization that has been laying the foundation for growth in St. Louis’ life sciences for more than a decade. “We are proud to partner with them to bring exciting new economic activity to St. Louis.”
Yield Lab’s 2016 Portfolio Companies:
Eyeing food-sourcing problems due to the ever-increasing population and decreasing farmland, Agribody utilizes patented gene technology to increase yield, delay senescence—the condition or process of deterioration with age— and increase resistance to diseases and stresses.
CEO and Founder Jerry Feitelson counts raising seed round funding accredited investors at ATI’s biggest challenge so far.
“[We’re looking forward to the] business coaching, introductions to prospective investors and introductions to prospective strategic partners/licensees in six target crops,” he says.
AgVoice is the world’s first, hands-free enabled, voice-interactive, mobile technology platform for improved efficiency for Ag Professionals like crop inspectors, plant breeders, soil scientists and veterinarians for large animals—people constantly on the go who are required to collect data during their work.
“Our Ag Tech startup is at the intersection of both technology and food & agriculture. It’s rare to find partners that understand both of these worlds, says Bruce Rasa CEO of AgVoice. “The challenge is that these two worlds are increasingly merging on a daily basis, around the world. More than half of our pilot partners are in the Midwest. [Our goal is] finding the right partners, who understand both worlds, and [who] are aligned to help us accomplish our mission. The Yield Lab directors and mentors bring substantial experience and knowledge in building successful technology companies, as well as having one of the deepest networks to potential customers, strategic partners and investors in this global industry. We’re excited to partner with them to grow our venture to the next level.”
Los Gatos, CA
Till uses automated calls and text messages to connect brands to small farms and facilities.
CEO Justin Oberman brings more than 19 years of experience in aviation, security, supply chain to Till, which looks to connect to every supply chain layer, including core producers, and use that connectivity to supplement inaccurate, incomplete, and out-of-date information residing in current supply chain systems.
APSE is a 2015 Yield Lab portfolio company, joining the program late, so they will be participating in the first part of the 2016 programming. Established in 2011, APSE is developing an inexpensive way of manufacturing RNA for RNAi applications.
“APSE’s process for RNA production shows promise to be able to provide technology to make RNA for about $2/gram. Just a few years ago this quantity of RNA would be valued in the 6 figure dollar range. Business partners and customers had trouble wrapping their thinking around this kind of quantum leap in productivity.”
As a 2015 Yield Lab portfolio company, APSE has a unique look at the accelerator program. “Yield Lab has been refining their programs and are solicitous and responsive to the needs of the members, says Kilmer. “We’ve found that their training in areas unique to startups had been particularly useful.”
BayoTech manufactures chemical reactors that greatly reduce the capital and operating costs associated with ammonia fertilizer production.
“We have a market in North America and around the world,” says CEO and Founder Justin Eisenach. “[The biggest challenge for us] has been raising capital and networking with both strategic and financial investors. We hope to gain [Yield Lab’s] knowledge in business development, operations and financial investment.”
Founded in 2012 by Harvard Business School’s Dmitry Kozaochenok, Cryoocyte addresses seasonal underproduction issues by freezing fish eggs for a year-round supply to keep farms fully stocked and create a genetic egg bank to preserve endangered species. Prior to joining Yield Labs, Cryoocite won $100,000 Foundes.org prize to stay in school while continuing on their venture.
Nanoguard Technologies is developing a new food sanitization technology to preserve the freshness and wholesomeness of food while improving its safety from food borne illness.
“Our biggest challenges have been in balancing the demands for advancing the technology while trying to raise the money necessary to move the technology forward to a commercial outcome,” says Mark Hochwalt, Founder and CEO of Nanoguard Technologies. “The Yield Lab can provide valuable mentoring and introductions to potential investors and customers [we’d like] to get in front of. They can also act as a sounding board on our implementation plans.”