The Bourbon Friday Show with Connie Bowen from Yield Lab

Estimated reading time: 2 minute(s)

On this episode of the Bourbon Friday Show we had the opportunity to talk with Connie Bowen, Program Manager at The Yield Lab and Director of Operations at The Yield Lab Institute, about agrifood tech and how the Yield Lab Institute aims to support ag tech companies around the world.

Facilitating Innovation in AgTech

Back in 2014, The Yield Lab became the first AgTech accelerator in the United States—which may seem strange for an industry as large as agriculture.

“Agriculture is the world’s largest industry, largest employer, and yet investment and startups in the space are really low relative to the size,” says Bowen.

Yet today, as Steve Case declared at TechCrunch, it would be difficult to find a better place than St. Louis for the AgTech ecosystem.

With the help of Yield Lab and their general partners like Monsanto, John Deere, Novus, and many more, St. Louis and the rest of the AgTech market are being totally revolutionized.

Each year, The Yield Lab invests $100,000 in six to eight companies that they bring on to their nonresidential accelerator program in order to best accommodate the needs of startups in the agriculture space. In fact, they’ve found such great success that they’ve replicated the program in both Argentina and Ireland.

While supporting innovation in the agriculture industry is an important goal, another part of their AgTech accelerator program focuses on agribusiness, which is essentially the cultivation of relationships between AgTech companies and farmers. Bowen explains that it’s vital for AgTech startups to understand the different players, different distribution channels, and how to sell to farmers in order to succeed.

The Yield Lab Institute

The Yield Lab now also operates a non-profit called The Yield Lab Institute, which Bowen manages here in St. Louis.

Although the main goal of The Yield Lab Institute is seeking companies that are making a positive social or environmental impact, Bowen also hopes to bring in more talent to the agriculture industry, at large. In doing so, the institute often works with great AgTech startups in a non-investment capacity.

If there is a discrepancy between the founders of AgTech solutions and their potential investors or clientele, that’s when The Yield Lab Institute steps in. Through education and networking within the agriculture industry, the non-profit arm is able to help technical founders get to an investment ready stage.

In the end, while it’s increasingly important to keep drawing great talent to the AgTech industry, Bowen emphasizes that it’s equally as important to enable effective innovation in the agriculture industry itself, through education and bridging the gap between the technologies and ordinary people.

Bourbon Innovation

As always, the Bourbon Friday team does their best to choose a fitting drink for the occasion.

The Bourbon Friday show livestreams every Friday at 4:30pm (CT) from T-Rex.

The bottle this week was 1792 Small Batch Bourbon produced by the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. This bottle, whose name hails back to the year that Kentucky gained its statehood, is perfect for this week’s episode on agriculture innovation.

Before Kentucky became a state, immigrant farmers started growing corn in Kentucky County, Virginia, and since they no longer had to share their crop yield with the crown, they decided to make whiskey with all of the leftover grain crop that was produced.