Agriculture in the U.S. is a $3 trillion industry, but, paradoxically, it’s innovations in technology that have slowed growth in terms of how many people the agriculture industry employs. All that’s to say there are fewer workers on farms nowadays, which means fewer people and less time for innovative ideas.
Entrepreneurship network Techstars wants to change that with its latest startup accelerator. The Farm to Fork Accelerator is Techstars first program that will focus on helping companies in the food and tech side of agriculture develop their ideas and businesses. Early- and late-stage startups from areas like AgTech, manufacturing, food safety, and waste reduction are invited to apply for the three-month program, which will be held in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area this summer.
Techstars has partnered with the $13 billion water and energy provider Ecolab, as well as food- and agriculture-services provider Cargill. “The Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator is the perfect platform to connect these global giants in food processing, food safety and agriculture with innovators who have ideas and technical knowledge,” Farm to Fork managing director Brett Brohl recently wrote.
The three-month program helps entrepreneurs across several stages: finding mentors, building out products, and learning how to communicate with investors and major stakeholders. The program ends with a demo day where participants show off their progress.
Techstars says its choice of The Twin Cities as a host for a food innovation program is a strategic choice: food and ag tech programs there are worth more than $25 billion, and these companies employ over 100,000 people. “Our history is food and agriculture and with programs like this food and ag tech will play a big part in the region’s future,” Brohl says.
Agriculture technology has a growing number of startups in it these days that cover everything from farm data platforms and online marketplaces for imperfect produce to livestock management and using blockchain to assess sustainability. “Digital agriculture” is a trend to watch out for in this space in continuing search for more sustainable farming methods and using biotech to create food alternatives (e.g., plant-based “meat”). Given those trends, now feels like an exciting and appropriate time to launch a startup accelerator focused on this area.
The Farm to Fork program will run from July 16–October 11, 2018. Applications open on January 8, and close on April 8.