Ep 64 Pete Nelson on partnering with growers to build better agtech

How can smaller startup ecosystems gain an outsized advantage in agtech creation? This was the question of a report AgThentic released in 2019 with the United States Studies Centre called Building a Globally Recognised Agtech Ecosystem in Australia.

The report, written by AgThentic Principal Advisor Cass Mao, explored how St Louis in Missouri built an agtech ‘specialisation’ over a number of decades through a key organisation, BioSTL, that brought together startups, researchers, investors and ag corporates.

Another specialised agtech ecosystem we wanted to dig deeper into was Memphis in Tennessee due to AgLaunch’s unique grower-centred model. AgLaunch is a public-private partnership with growers at the core. Through the AgLaunch365 program, growers play a part in the selection and mentoring of startups, and are rewarded for their time investment through equity. The program focuses on validating problems and solutions through multi-year field trials that the AgLaunch farmers participate in.

Report author Cass Mao joined as a guest co-host for this interview with AgLaunch President Pete Nelson to unpack the origin story and insights behind the creation of AgLaunch. 

Pete is a systems thinker who has a clarifying way of describing the relationships and exchanges needed to create successful innovation ecosystems and agtech companies. We had a great conversation about the gap between the Silicon Valley model of innovation and what actually works in agriculture: starting from the farm level and partnering with growers to develop and prove out a product over multiple years. 

We also talk about:

  • how rural lenders, research universities, and diverse growers all play a role in creating agtech 

  • the mindset to working with growers AgLaunch teaches its startups 

  • crop diversification and other experimental responses Pete is seeing in the US

  • advice for growers wanting to get more involved with startups

We hope you enjoy this chat as much as we did! To read or download the full Building a Globally Recognised Agtech Ecosystem in Australia report head over to the United States Studies Centre website.

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