IN2 AgTech Startups Making an Impact
While our planet faces many grand challenges that are impacting global food security, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) is helping to bring new agtech innovations to the table. Each year, the IN2 program selects cohorts of agtech and clean tech startups to help them conduct research, test their innovations, and speed technologies to commercial markets. Each company receives $250,000 in non-dilutive funding and access to state-of-the-art facilities at the Danforth Center and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. It is a vital opportunity for emerging agtech and clean tech startups that want to make an impact.
“Seven years into the program, we know IN2 is but one link in the chain to a cleantech startup’s success, but it is an essential connection that accelerates harvesting investments and movement into the market,” writes Trish Cozart, director, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, NREL and Mary Wenzel, former executive vice president, head of Sustainability & ESG Integration, Wells Fargo in the 2021 IN2 Annual Report.
Growing IN2 AgTech Startups
Since 2019, there have been 16 agtech portfolio companies, including five companies that are either based in St. Louis or have chosen to relocate to the region after participating in IN2. As of 2021, these 16 companies have demonstrated a growth rate of 57% and now employ more than 240 people. In addition, collectively they have raised $94M since participating in the incubator, which is critical to advancing their path to commercialization. For every dollar the IN2 program has invested in these companies, they have raised $34 in follow-on funds.
“Participation in the IN2 program gave us the ability to develop and test an entirely new application area for our lignin polymer technology,” says Tony Bova, CEO and co-founder, mobius. “We had already developed our core polymer technology and started application development with horticultural containers and other durable goods, but we saw an opportunity to investigate controlled release fertilizers as a new product category. We have since seen substantial market interest. Additionally, our partnership with the Danforth Center led to new potential partnerships and collaboration activities.”
The current IN2 agtech cohort is focused on controlled environment agriculture and includes Atlas Sensor Technologies, CarbonBook, GrowFlux, New West Genetics, and SunPath. These companies are collaborating with Danforth Center scientists to further develop and validate their innovative solutions. The next cohort of companies will be announced in Q3.