Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) announced this week the companies chosen to participate in the 2020 cohort of its food-focused startup accelerator. Nine companies were chosen for this cohort, according to a press release sent to The Spoon. Among them are a company that makes premium spirits from whey and one that uses excess milk to make t-shirts.
The DFA itself is a cooperative of family farmers that was formed in 1998 and now counts about 13,000 members from dairy farms around the U.S. The accelerator program works with companies using technology to improve aspects of the farming system. Past participants include ripe.io, which uses blockchain to improve supply chain transparency, and Labby, whose AI-powered smartphone app can test milk onsite and save farmers the time and money it takes to send samples to a lab.
Besides giving companies a foothold in the agtech industry, the program also connects DFA with startups, which are typically more agile and innovative than traditional agricultural companies. “[We] needed a way to partner with someone who could [get us] on the right path and get in front of some new technologies,” DFA’s director of innovation Doug Dressler told me last year.
Program participants receive mentorship and guidance around product development, marketing, and business development, connect with potential investors, and participate in a demo day at the end of the cohort.
The program runs for 90 days and is typically a combination of offsite, virtual programming and onsite work at the DFA headquarters in Kansas City, KS. Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, virtual programming is particularly important to this cohort. The DFA said in its email to The Spoon that the first program will kick off remotely and rely heavily on “digital training tools and resources” for at least the start of the cohort.
It’s a tactic currently being used by other startup accelerators, including Food-X and the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator. How much of the DFA’s program will be virtual versus onsite remains to be seen. Program coordinators hope to have onsite work available by July.
Today’s press announcement describes the nine chosen companies as follows:
- Armenta (Ra’anana, Israel): a non-invasive technology for antibiotic-free treatment of bovine mastitis.
- Capro-X (Ithaca, N.Y.): a sustainable solution for whey waste from Greek yogurt production.
- Livestock Water Recycling (Calgary, Alberta, Canada): a manure treatment technology, which recycles 75% of manure into clean water while segregating manure nutrients for precision fertilizer application.
- Mi Terro (Los Angeles, Calif.): a sustainable fashion brand that uses excess milk to make men’s and women’s t-shirts.
- Chank’s Grab-N-Go (Millville, N.J.): a handheld snack company featuring pizza cones, philly cheesesteak cones and more.
- GoodSport (Chicago, Ill.): a sports drink made from milk which uses only natural ingredients and has naturally occurring electrolytes and vitamins.
- SuperFrau (Cambridge, Mass.): electrolyte drinks made from upcycling surplus whey, with real ingredients and no added sugars.
- Wheyward Spirit (Eugene, Ore.): premium spirit made from whey.
- Yaar Nordic Quark Bar (London, U.K.): Nordic chilled dairy snacks made with fresh quark, a mixture of cow’s milk and natural lactic acid.
The 2020 cohort is currently in session and runs until the July 30 demo day.