There’s a world of support waiting for big ideas.
It starts with an idea. For 2013-14 National FFA Officer Steven Brockshus, the light bulb came on while he was attending a land auction.
“I realized that people bidding on the land actually knew very little about the property itself. More than $1 million was being spent for a high-value asset, yet buyers had few data points to help them make an informed decision,” he says.
Brockshus had learned enough about the business world from FFA that, while attending college, he felt ready to get going on his start-up idea.
His concept would become FarmlandFinder, a set of digital tools for landowners, real estate professionals and others buying, selling and appraising farmland.
The next big step in a start-up launch is finding partners and funding support.
“Don’t underestimate the importance of a business partner or team,” says Seana Day, a leading ag tech expert and partner with investment and information companies Better Food Ventures and The Mixing Bowl. “It’s hard to go at it alone, and very few people have all of the important skills needed to take an idea to market.”
There are several types of support for ag tech start-ups, including incubators, accelerators and pitch competitions. Incubators provide a work-space, technological expertise and mentorship. With accelerators, early-stage companies typically get access to a business development curriculum and a mentoring or investor network. Pitch events connect start-ups to investors.
“People just don’t know what is out there and where the career opportunities exist,” Day says. “We need to help young people and educators see the possibilities for many different careers that integrate ag and technology.” You can develop innovative ideas of your own with FFA Blue 365. At FFA.org/Blue365, you’ll find ideation starters, info on an array of careers and a video library.
Accelerating a Start-Up
As an example of the kinds of resources available to entrepreneurs, here are three organizations on the 2018 Ag Funder list of most valuable agrifood tech accelerator programs.
The Yield Lab
The St. Louis-based accelerator invests $100,000 in early-stage tech companies that “revolutionize agricultural and food systems to sustainably provide for the world.” The Yield Lab also offers one-on-one mentoring, cohort-based accelerator programming and access to its global network.
The biotech accelerator provides $250,000 to successful applicants. Start-up founders spend four months in San Francisco with access to lab and working space, mentoring and networking with entrepreneurs, investors and corporate partners.
The New York-based accelerator offers $65,000 to kick-start young companies, helps entrepreneurs hone investor pitches, provides networking with experts and offers the opportunity to run a new business from a coworking space.