Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator Selects Five Agtech Companies Targeting Global Food Resiliency
The program’s 11th cohort will receive non-dilutive funding for collaborative research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to develop and de-risk their technologies
DENVER–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), announced today it selected five startups to participate in the program’s 11th cohort. The cohort consists of sustainable agriculture companies focused on using biological solutions to improve the resilience of global food systems.
“With growing populations coupled with environmental shifts, farmers need technologies that will provide more yield using available resources ultra-efficiently and in the least harmful way,” said Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at NREL. “Agriculture technologies that provide diversified supply as well as resilience from disease play a significant part in securing our future.”
The selected companies will receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding to conduct technical assistance projects at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, a program partner, and the world’s largest independent plant science research institute. The companies will also benefit from a robust IN² cleantech ecosystem that includes industry experts, investors, and a nationwide Channel Partner network of more than 60 business incubators, accelerators, and university programs.
“This year’s IN² agtech cohort companies are creating new technologies that can help control and mitigate a variety of emerging crop vulnerabilities,” said Elliott Kellner, Senior Program Manager at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. “We’re excited to support the development of such a broad range of strategies by a cohort that is so diverse, in terms of commercialization stage and technological approach.”
Originally nominated by program Channel Partners, the selected companies underwent an in-depth review by Wells Fargo, NREL, the Danforth Center, and IN2’s expert industry advisory board. The selected startups are:
- Cytophage Technologies, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, aims to overcome the problem with evolving bacteria that becomes increasingly resistant to antibiotics by using synthetic biology to generate bacteriophage. Bacteriophages are evolved viruses that exclusively infect and kill bacteria and leave behind no deleterious effects on humans, plants, or animals. Cytophage Technologies will collaborate with Danforth’s Drs. Rebecca Bart and Allison Miller.
- Edison Agrosciences, based in St. Louis, MO, tackles the problem of the endangered natural rubber supply by increasing the amount of rubber already produced by the sunflower plant. The goal is to create a domestic supply, prevent further tropical deforestation, and improve farmer economics for a crop suitable for marginal lands. Edison Agrosciences will collaborate with Danforth’s Dr. Todd Mockler.
- Peptyde Bio, based in St. Louis, MO, strives to provide a safe alternative to combat fungal diseases even as resistance to current solutions accelerates. Peptyde discovers, designs, and develops novel biofungicides based on plant-derived antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), speeding transition of crop protection from synthetic chemicals toward natural alternatives. Peptyde Bio will collaborate with Danforth’s Drs. Mao Li and Noah Fahlgren.
- Robigo, based in Cambridge, MA, is shaping microbial communities to create a more sustainable food system. Unlike existing pesticides that indiscriminately kill microbes and wreak havoc on the environment, Robigo’s technology specifically targets pathogenic bacteria, creating more effective and environmentally friendly biopesticides that will clear the way for healthier soils and more productive crops. Robigo will collaborate with Danforth’s Drs. Rebecca Bart and Allison Miller.
- Synthetic Vector Design, LLC, based in St. Louis, MO, is partnering with a BioGenerator Ventures-formed company, Susterco, to develop and commercialize its technology. Crop losses due to disease cost farmers more than $220 billion per year. To combat this issue, Synthetic Vector Designs is developing novel methods to facilitate the site-specific transposition of large DNA fragments into selectable target sequences in plant cells to boost disease control. Susterco will collaborate with Danforth’s Drs. Toni Kutchan and Veena Veena.
“Future generations are counting on us to work together to transform the agriculture industry and increase food security,” said Jenny Flores, Head of Small Business Growth Philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “We need to support entrepreneurs and companies with innovative ideas as they prepare to go to market and help solve this global issue.”
With the addition of these five companies, IN2’s total portfolio now includes 66 startups, including 20 sustainable agriculture startups. Since joining the IN2 program, portfolio companies have raised more than $1.28 billion in external follow-on funding—equivalent to an average of more than $81 for every $1 awarded by Wells Fargo through IN2.
About the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2)
The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) is a $50 million technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation. Co-administered by and housed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, IN2’s mission is to speed the path to market for early-stage, clean-technology entrepreneurs. Launched in 2014 with an initial focus on supporting scalable solutions to reduce the energy impact of commercial buildings, IN2 has since expanded its focus to advance technologies that address the sustainable production of agriculture and housing affordability. For more information, visit in2ecosystem.com.
About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a leading financial services company that has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets, proudly serves one in three U.S. households and more than 10% of small businesses in the U.S., and is a leading middle market banking provider in the U.S. We provide a diversified set of banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through our four reportable operating segments: Consumer Banking and Lending, Commercial Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth & Investment Management. Wells Fargo ranked No. 37 on Fortune’s 2021 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In the communities we serve, the company focuses its social impact on building a sustainable, inclusive future for all by supporting housing affordability, small business growth, financial health, and a low-carbon economy. News, insights, and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.
About the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.
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