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Why Tech Entrepreneurs Should be Interested in Ag

Close your eyes and picture an entrepreneur; most likely you see a millennial with black, square-rimmed glasses, relaxed jeans and sneakers, coffee in one hand, iPhone in the other, as they test their latest app.

Close your eyes again and picture a farmer. Many images may come to mind. There’s the older man with leathered hands in denim shirt and khakis scouting a field of soybeans or cotton. Or maybe you envision the fresh face of a woman in t-shirt and jeans who just finished feeding calves on a dairy farm. Perhaps your image of a farmer is more of a young guy wearing a baseball cap with earbuds in while tweeting from a combine.

Whatever vision came to mind, today’s farmer is probably more like the entrepreneur than you think. In fact, farming increasingly relies on technology and farmers are more tech savvy than ever. GPS, variable rate technology, genomics, agronomy, finance, chemistry, meteorology, engineering, and biotechnology are just some of the domains growers must think about and operate on a daily basis.

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With predictions saying farmers will need to produce 70% more food by the year 2050 in order to meet food, fuel, and fiber demand growth (The Economist), farmers are looking for ways to substantially increase yield and efficiency. Technologies that can quickly and reliably help farmers make solid decisions – using less water, less land, and fewer inputs – are vital to the future of farm, and consequently food stability.

“Farmers are always looking for ways to be more productive, more efficient and more profitable,” shared Jeff Aiken, TN Farm Bureau President at a recent AgLaunch Demo Day.

In fact, agriculture is not the out-of-date industry that many characterize it to be. For entrepreneurs seeking high impact applications for their skill, there are few better opportunities. Agriculture is an industry that incorporates robots, drones, sensors, and just about every other gadget a tech nerd could dream of using. Watch these AgLaunch alumni pitches to see a few of the newest technologies.

Ag tech investments nearly doubled in 2015, according to Forbes. Still, 2016 saw some cutbacks in funding as AgFunder outlines in their 2016 investment report. Technology adoption rates are not growing at the same pace as funding. There are many “hammers looking for a nail.” Establishing a solid value proposition and developing early strategic relationships with growers can help you not only get funded, but sell your innovation to eager buyers.

Matt Bell Quote

That’s where the AgLaunch Accelerator comes in. The program not only introduces entrepreneurs to growers so innovative solutions and go-to-market hypotheses can be tested, but it also links entrepreneurs to a deep network of agribusiness expertise, opening the door to a world of opportunity.

While conventional stereotypes make it seem like an unlikely pair – a tech entrepreneur and a farmer – it is one of the most critical partnerships to the future of humanity. No entrepreneur should let the unfamiliarity of rural farm life keep them from diving into tech’s most innovative sector.

“The AgLaunch Accelerator is uniquely connecting new technology with real farm experience to change the way that deals are being created for the benefit of investors and the ag industry,” explained Matt Bell, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures.

For those that see the entrepreneurial opportunity in agtech and have a viable solution, be sure to check out and apply to the next AgLaunch Accelerator. Applications are being accepted through March 1 for the 2017 accelerator program. Participants gain $50,000 seed funding and are linked to a network of mentors, farmers and entrepreneurial experts.

AgLaunch is an initiative implemented by the Ag Innovation Development Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Memphis Bioworks Foundation. For more information, click here.

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