Igniting Global Innovation

In November 2001, at the dedication of the Danforth Center building, Dr. Bill Danforth set forth a remarkable vision for St. Louis: to become a global hub for plant sciences, a place from which knowledge and innovation would flow to benefit the entire world and the local community. Dr. Danforth believed that the Danforth Center could play a pivotal role in ending hunger and environmental degradation and recognized that these lofty goals could only be achieved through collaboration.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, October 18th, 2023, the Danforth Center stays true to its commitment to collaboration as it hosted its second IGNITE event, focused on fostering global connections to accelerate innovation and growth in agri-food tech ecosystems.

The IGNITE event brought together a diverse panel of experts. Teresita Di Marco, Principal at the Yield Lab LATAM, led the panel, which featured Gabriela Burian, Global Director for Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships at Bayer Crop Science; Luis Fernandez Zang, Senior Investment Officer at IDB Lab and IDB Group Investment Officer; and Mark Jarman, Founder and Consultant at AgriTIERRA, and LATAM Lead for Agri-EPI Centre.

These experts brought their extensive knowledge and experience to the table, shedding light on the strategies to promote innovation, the importance of developing local talent, the value of interconnected ecosystems, and the significance of global collaboration.

Gabriela Burian emphasized the importance of collaboration: "No one entity is equipped to solve the greatest agricultural challenges of our time. This is why we prioritize partnerships and innovation for transformation."

The IGNITE event served as the centerpiece of the Cultivar Summit, which brought together a delegation of 30 startup executives, investors, and ecosystem builders from nine countries in Central and South America. Over three days, the group visited the Danforth Center and 39 North, the Center for Plant and Life Sciences, Benson Hill, Cortex and BioSTL, T-REX Forest Park, and CITYPARK. Through interactive panel discussions and workshops, St. Louis partners showcased the region's commitment to collaborate with Latin American agri-food tech ecosystems and foster innovation that can make a meaningful difference in the world.

The Cultivar Summit is an initiative of Cultivar STL, a partnership between the Danforth Center, BioSTL, the Yield Lab LATAM, the World Trade Center St. Louis, Greater St. Louis Inc., and 39 North Agtech Innovation District, that aims to strengthen and sustain partnerships that will contribute to economic growth in St. Louis and Latin America and positively impact food security around the world.

St. Louis shares many similarities with Latin American countries concerning agricultural practices, crops, and climates. This shared agricultural background provides a strong foundation for mutual collaboration and the exchange of knowledge and technologies. By recognizing the parallels in our markets and working together, we can strengthen our agricultural sectors, foster sustainability, and contribute to global food security.

Through such international collaboration, the dream set forth by Dr. Bill Danforth in 2001 is steadily becoming a reality, promising a brighter, more sustainable future for all.