Seed World

Startup Companies: Created Out of Need

A seemingly increasing number of startups are entering the ag and seed space, and looking to deliver specific solutions to a need.

The cascade of innovative products and technologies brought to the seed space in recent decades has derived from the efforts of companies big and small. With seemingly greater frequency, new products and technologies are being delivered by small startup companies.

“Startups have an advantage over big companies in that they are very flat organizationally which allows for fast decision-making, operational agility and rapid adaptation to change,” says Marco Toapanta, director of science and technology for AgriThority. “Start ups are also typically very focused on a specific crop and a specific area of interest, unlike bigger, established companies that typically have a wide range of interests.”

The ability to focus on the development of a new product or technology for a specific need is what gives beauty to startups, Toapanta says.

One place where startup companies gain encouragement is the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri. A number of these companies will be spotlighted Sept. 11-13 when the Center hosts its ninth annual Ag Innovation Showcase. Among the startup companies being showcased are:

Agribody Technologies, Inc. based in San Diego, California, whose genetic modification or genome-editing technology delays onset of plant senescence while increasing resistance to diseases and sub lethal stresses such as drought, heat, cold, salt and more.

New West Genetics of Fort Collins, Colorado, which provides stable genetics and the optimization of desirable traits. The company is the first commercial organization to adapt cannabis for sustainable and large-scale production in the United States.

Accelerated Ag Technologies, LLC in Ankeny, Iowa, whose PowerPollenSM product enables hybrid crops through cross pollination. The pollen handling process is said to decrease the need for multiple resource processes in seed production while increasing yield and seed genetic integrity.

“Much has changed in the national and international landscape since the Ag Innovation Showcase launched in 2009,” says Sam Fiorello, Danforth Center chief operating officer. “We are seeing more novel agtech innovations that are women-owned submissions providing relevant choices and opportunities to our community. We are confident this trend will continue to grow and flourish as we encourage the convergence of diverse technology solutions for agriculture.”

Four of the startup companies being showcased are women-owned: SomaDetect, Amebagone, LLC, Visual Farms, LLC, and Climate Forecast Applications Network, LLC.

In the seed arena, new innovations are emerging from all over the world. Toapanta says that many new startups in Latin America, Brazil, Argentina and Chile specifically, have been created by entrepreneurs who gained their education in North America and Europe and brought their ideas home for development.

Many startups in the seed space around the world are working with naturally-occurring molecules to be applied in trait development, genetic improvement, seed protection and many more areas of research.

“There are many questions in agronomic and vegetable crops that have not been answered by conventional chemistry,” Toapanta says. “Two big problems in search of solutions are plant parasitic nematodes in agronomic and vegetable crops and citrus greening.”

The questions in search of answers are endless and Toapanta believes that the establishment of new startups involved in the seed industry will continue at a rapid pace. “The big question is how many will last,” he says.