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AgLaunch is a Memphis based non-profit, agtech accelerator with a mission to help farmers gain access to agriculture automation solutions while enhancing the productivity of the “mid-South” agricultural region of the United States. AgLaunch has a unique business model, with support coming from the public side from the EDA, USDA and SBA, as well as some TN state funding.
AgLaunch uses a committee of individual, commercial farmers to select technologies that will benefit farmers. Technology companies have to make their case to the farmer selection committee before being accepted into a new cohort with the program.
More labor is needed to pivot to specialty crops
Looking to the future, AgLaunch recognizes the need to produce more specialty crops (i.e. crops other than wheat, corn and other row-crops) in the mid-south, a region that has the arable land and water resources to pivot to meet the changing needs of the market. What the region is lacking, however, is the additional labor that is necessary to grow specialty crops.
Crops like wheat, corn and soybeans can be sown, cultivated and harvested with a small staff of farm hands. The mid-South region has evolved to focus on row-crops over the last 100 years. In order to make a pivot to growing specialty crops, more automation will be required.
It is in this market climate that AgLaunch was born, with the full support of the regional governments and farming community.
AgLaunch365 is a unique partnership and accelerator program
For young agricultural automation startups, AgLaunch is offering a unique opportunity to accelerate into the market. The ideal target company will have reached the prototype stage, although that’s not a requirement.
Joining the program will allow companies direct access to their target market. The farmers who are involved are all innovators and understand both the risks and benefits of participating. As stakeholders, the farmers offer prototype testing and feedback to the design and operation of new solutions, as well as providing the land, crops and resources needed for prototype testing.
The AgLaunch365 Accelerator kicks off in January 2023 and lasts the entire growing season. It is a three phase program:
Challenge Week – Participants receive support services to refine their startup’s value proposition and prepare to pitch to farmers and agricultural investors to earn a seat in the AgLaunch365 Accelerator.
Accelerator – A panel of farmers and ag investors choose up to six startups to participate in this phase. Startups will construct in-depth farm trial plans while fine-tuning their business model.
Farm Trials – Phase III is dedicated to implementing farm trial plans with the AgLaunch Farmer Network. Participating startups typically work directly with farmers for up to three iterations of their technology and have exclusive access to farmer input and feedback. AgLaunch has many cost-share opportunities to offset some of the expenses of farm trials.
The 2022-2023 current schedule includes:
- AgLaunch365 Applications close July 18
- Selected teams notified by early September
- Phase I Challenge weeks held in Memphis in October
- Phase II Accelerator held in hybrid format mid-January – February
- Phase III Farm Trials begin March and continue for up to two years
NOTE: the deadline to submit an application is July 18, 2022, for more information, go to the AgLaunch website.