Barre, Vermont-based vertical farming company Ceres Greens just scooped up the winning prize from foodtech accelerator Accel-VT’s recently wrapped program.
Part foodtech accelerator, part startup competition, Accel-VT — also based in Vermont — each year picks eight startups from around the U.S. and Canada to participate in its three-month program. Like many accelerators, it all ends with a pitch day, where startups present their ideas to investors. Winners are chosen from that process. This year, Ceres and Michigan-based labor-sourcing solution AgHelp came out at the top of the cohort.
Ceres, which opened for business in January 2018, is Vermont’s first vertical farm. The company’s proprietary technology uses sensors and automated controls to calculate temperature, nutrients, and amount of light its produce needs to grow. Not surprisingly, leafy greens are the main menu.
Ceres won a $25,000 equity-free prize, which the company says will go towards “expanding production.” Right now, Ceres supplies various restaurants and businesses in the state of Vermont which, though it’s one of the more rural states, imports 90 percent of its produce from the west. As we’ve previously discussed, there are significant challenges when it comes to scaling vertical farming solutions, especially when it comes to foods that aren’t leafy greens. But Ceres is a young company, and, while I speculate, the extra cash may help them expand production to areas beyond leaves.
Meanwhile, Accel-VT looks for companies who use tech to solve “pressing food system issues facing society.” If this past other cohorts are any indication, those issues include waste reduction, renewable energy, alternative proteins, and data solutions. Other notable participants in the recently wrapped cohort include edible cutlery maker Savor and Planetarians, who uses a patent-pending technology to turn defatted seeds into protein sources.
Applications for the next cohort aren’t open yet, but keep an eye out here for that date, as well as other news in the world of startup accelerators.