Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator Partnership with Danforth Plant Science Center Announces New Cohort Focused on Climate-Aligned Agriculture
Seven innovative agtech startups to receive $1.15 million in non-dilutive funding to accelerate commercialization
ST. LOUIS, MO – July 11, 2023 — The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN²), a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), announced today it selected seven startups to participate in the program’s 12th cohort. The cohort consists of sustainable agriculture companies focused on mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change on global food systems that will partner with scientists at the Danforth Center to develop and validate their innovative technologies.
"In the face of intensifying challenges in the agriculture industry and our environment, the world urgently needs innovative, sustainable solutions,” said Trish Cozart, IN² program manager and the director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at NREL. “With projections indicating a global population of 10 billion people by 2050, we must develop methods that not only increase productivity, but do so without causing harm to our planet. IN² is at the forefront of this mission, supporting promising startups that are reimagining the future of food and farming."
Each company will receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding for various technical assistance and field trial projects to further refine their technologies and business models. The companies will work alongside world-renowned principal investigators at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, the world’s largest independent plant science research institute.
"IN²’s twelfth cohort highlights some of the best startups in climate-aligned agriculture,” said Elliott Kellner, director of commercial innovation at the Danforth Center. “The selected companies have commercially viable technologies with tremendous potential to deliver environmental, economic, and societal benefits.”
“As one of the top agricultural production lenders in the U.S., Wells Fargo supports scaling clean technologies,” said Robyn Luhning, Chief Sustainability Officer at Wells Fargo. “Through the Wells Fargo IN² program, these companies receive support to commercialize solutions for some of our customers’ most pressing challenges.”
The companies were nominated by members of IN²’s Channel Partner network, consisting of more than 60 business incubators, accelerators, and university programs nationwide. The selected startups underwent an in-depth review by Wells Fargo, NREL, the Danforth Center, and IN²’s expert industry advisory board. The seven companies selected for IN²’s cohort 12 are:
- HabiTerre, based in St. Louis, MO, uses remote sensing, process models, and artificial intelligence to create a holistic picture of farm production systems past, present, and future cropland performance, including net greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon sequestration, crop rotation, management history, yield, water use, and nutrient dynamics. Habiterre will collaborate with Danforth’s Dr. Chris Topp.
- Impetus Ag, based in St. Louis, MO, is developing next generation crop insect control products with an eco-friendly insect control platform that dramatically enhances the performance of current biological products for topical and transgenic applications. Impetus Ag will collaborate with Danforth’s Drs. Bala Venkata and Nigel Taylor.
- Impossible Sensing, based in St. Louis, MO, boosts soil management, merging in-situ sensors with regular farming operations. The solutions aim to capture real-time data on nutrients, soil health, and carbon levels, empowering growers to maximize land potential, participate in carbon markets, and improve profitability through sustainable practices. Impossible Sensing will collaborate with Danforth’s Dr. Allison Miller.
- InnerPlant, based in Davis, CA, develops seed technology to tap into plants’ natural response pathways and code crops to communicate early and specific stresses via easy-to-collect optical signals. The technology helps farmers understand plants' needs and prescribe the right amount of fertilizer and crop protection products at the optimal time. InnerPlant will collaborate with Danforth’s Dr. Katie Murphy.
- Mirai Solar, based in Mountain View, CA, uses photovoltaic shade screen technology, the Mirai Screen, to provide greenhouses and smart buildings the means to reduce their operational costs and achieve net-zero energy targets. The Mirai Screen transforms the need for shade into a source for renewable energy by acting as a simple drop-in replacement for conventional passive shade screens. Mirai Solar will collaborate with Danforth’s Dr. Ru Zhang.
- Running Tide, based in Portland, ME, with offices in BRDG Park on the Danforth Center campus, is on a mission to restore ocean health, rebalance the carbon cycle, and revitalize coastal communities. The company designs and develops integrated software and hardware systems, including monitoring and measurement capabilities, to deploy nature-based interventions that remove carbon, combat ocean acidification, and increase the scientific understanding of ocean ecosystems. Running Tide will collaborate with Danforth’s Drs. Noah Fahlgren and Malia Gehan.
- Sentinel Fertigation, based in Lincoln, NE, leverages remote sensing and geospatial data to empower precision nitrogen management, particularly for farmers who fertigate. Sentinel’s N-Time software program helps farmers improve nitrogen use efficiency by 23% and save 42 pounds of nitrogen per acre on average. Sentinel Fertigation will collaborate with Dr. Elliott Kellner to connect with a broad set of research teams across the cohort’s ecosystem.
With the addition of these seven companies, IN²’s total portfolio now includes 72 companies, including 26 sustainable agriculture startups. Since joining the IN² program, portfolio companies have raised more than $1.8 billion in external follow-on funding—equivalent to an average of more than $97 for every $1 awarded by Wells Fargo through IN².
About the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN²)
The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN²) is a $50 million technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation. Co-administered by and housed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, IN²’s mission is to speed the path to market for early-stage, clean-technology entrepreneurs. Launched in 2014 with an initial focus on supporting scalable solutions to reduce the energy impact of commercial buildings, IN² has since expanded its focus to advance technologies that address the sustainable production of agriculture and housing affordability. For more information, visit in2ecosystem.com.
About the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and through the generosity of individual, corporate, and foundation donors. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.
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