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Farmers, researchers, government agencies and corporations from around the world have gathered in St. Louis this week for the Ag Innovation Showcase, now in its 10th year at 39 North.
The Midwest has long been recognized as a leader in AgTech Innovation. St. Louis in particular has become a magnet for agricultural organizations from around the world, including Atomation and NRGene, emerging leaders like Benson Hill Biosystems and AgTech giants Bayer CropScience and Dupont. The city was even recently called “the silicon valley of agtech,” making it an ideal site for the Ag Showcase, which is the product of a partnership between the St. Louis-based Danforth plant center and the Larta institute.
The theme of this year’s showcase is “from Farm to Plate.” Panels will discuss plant nutrition and nutritive capacity and how various players in the industry, from fertilizer producers to plant health promoters, can best play their roles. The two-day agenda targets issues spanning across a range of issues within this theme–from consumers’ increased attention to the conditions in which their food was produced, to methods for increasing crop yields while maintaining practices in sustainability.
The showcase features speakers and panels including a session on Argentina’s increasingly important role in the AgTech space, looking through global lens at the wider AgTech world. Other sessions will hit closer to home for St. Louis, including one called “The Impact of Innovation on Missouri’s Number One Industry: Agriculture.” Chris Chinn, 5th Generation Farmer & Director of Missouri Agriculture Department, will speak to her department’s mission to feed, reach, connect and empower more Missourians and the ways state government can best serve Missouri farmers.
The Ag innovation showcase spotlights 14 innovative companies tackling agriculture’s biggest challenges. Once such company is St. Louis-based Plastomics Inc., a biotechnology startup developing new methods of chloroplast engineering for the next generation of biotech crops. The Yield Lab and BioGenerator accelerators have invested in Plastomics, demonstrating how the local startup ecosystem can create world-class AgTech stars.
Plastomics, along with fellow spotlighted companies Pathway Biologic and Pivot Bio, will participate in a presentation entitled “Plant Nutrition: Genome Modification and Natural Diversity,” in which the companies will explain their unique approaches for improving plant performance and nutrition. The subsequent showcases, following the path from farm to plate, include “Plant Nutrition: Protection & Nutrients” and “Consumer Drivers: Food Products, Logistics, Distribution.”
The 14 companies spotlighted represent a variety of creative approaches towards more sustainable products. Stixfresh, a Malaysian company, created an all-natural, edible sticker that keeps fruit looking and tasting fresher for longer. Arbiom, based in Durham, North Carolina uses technology to transform wood into nutritional, economical and sustainable animal feed.
The showcase provides both consumer-driven innovation and platforms designed to fill gaps in current business practices. Spotlighted company FreshSpoke, enables consumers to buy produce directly from farmers and provides a just in time distribution network to keep food local. Grain Discovery has developed an online exchange that leverages blockchain technology to create a more efficient market.
Through the variety of companies present at the showcase, attendees from all over the world and across the food value chain will be represented here. Later in the week, The Yield Lab’s Agfest will introduce some of those same individuals to the companies they’ve invested in. While not officially part of the Ag Innovation Showcase, The Yield Lab’s demo event builds on top of it and offers more insight into the local ecosystem for AgTech professionals.
That event includes a riverboat tour on Wednesday that highlights the “Ag Coast” of America, where regional distribution ports move millions of tons of grain a year, a presentation at Rabo AgriFinance headquarters in Chesterfield and Demo Day at T-Rex downtown.
The “Ag Week”, the convenience of two AgTech-related conferences means St. Louis is increasingly becoming a must-do destination for AgTech investors and industry insiders and continues to increase the overall profile of the region as one of the premiere AgTech hubs.