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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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Venture Investment in Ag

Burgeoning Growth of Startup Accelerators a Boon to Sustainable Agriculture Entrepreneurs

October 19, 2012 |

When the Silicon Valley startup accelerator 500 Startups spawned farm production software company Farmeron late last year, sustainable agriculture officially joined the accelerator boom.  Accelerators typically take an equity stake in your startup in return for which you get a little bit of funding and, more importantly, to participate in an intensive three to six month mentoring program at the end of which you should ideally have a fundable business. They’re often confused with the now-less-hip incubators, which generally offer physical office space in addition to mentoring over a prolonged period.  Read More

Manhattan Restaurant’s Rooftop Farm Provides all the Fresh Ingredients it Needs

October 15, 2012 |

Below New York City’s skyscrapers, 8-foot tall okra plants tower over an impressive array of vegetables, herbs and flowers growing on a rooftop farm situated just 100-feet from the kitchen of Riverpark Restaurant. Lunch and dinner menus state that meals are made with “produce grown right here at the Riverpark Farm.” In fact, the 15,000-square-foot urban farm on East 29th Street supplies 100 percent of the restaurant’s organic herbs, lettuce, and flowers. Read More

LAST DAY to Lock in the Rooster Special Price for the Seedstock Sustainable Ag Conference at UCLA

September 24, 2012 |

There is only ONE DAY LEFT to lock in your ticket at the Rooster Special Ticket Price for the Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference (details below) at UCLA. The conference has recently added a number of new sponsors including Whole Foods Market, Palumbo Family Vineyards and Wine, the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Entrepreneur Association and Net Impact Branch. Read More

Blue River Technology Raises $3.1 Million from Khosla Ventures and Angel Investors

September 10, 2012 |

Photo: Blue River Technology

News Release–SUNNYVALE, Calif.–Blue River Technology, a pioneer in the use of computer vision and robotics for agriculture, today announced it has raised $3.1 million in Series A funding led by Khosla Ventures. Steve Blank, author of “The Startup Owner’s Manual,” Ulu Ventures, and Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs also joined the round. In addition, Ryan Kottenstette of Khosla Ventures has joined the company’s board of directors.

Founded in 2011 by two Stanford University Alumni, Blue River Technology is developing an alternative to chemical-intensive agriculture, which is both expensive and hazardous to the environment. Read More

Farm Management Software Startup Increases Efficiency, Opens Eyes and Wallets in Silicon Valley

June 12, 2012 |

Running a dairy or cattle operation efficiently requires the management, tracking and assessment of complex sets of data ranging from animal feeding cycles and health to overall production performance. Farmers and their teams often spend an inordinate amount of time and money shuffling through spreadsheets, manually cobbling together data to insure that their operations run smoothly.

To solve this problem and increase the efficiency of data management, a company called Farmeron has developed an online software product that enables livestock farmers to easily track the ins and outs of their animals. The company’s software program allows farmers to manage such data sets as the number of animals on the farm, feeding cycles, milk production, medical treatments, location transfers and much more. Through Farmeron’s cloud-based web application, farmers can update their data as they go and later create reports and analytics that keep their farms running more efficiently. Read More

A Primer for the Sustainable Ag Entrepreneur Thinking about Applying for a Patent

May 31, 2012 |

For many sustainable agriculture entrepreneurs the point at which their ideas become ‘real’ is the one at which they must confront the decision as to whether to patent their technology or process. This decision point frequently comes even before pilot projects are established or target customers identified. Unless you’re fortunate enough to work at a university or research facility that is willing to cover the cost of patenting, it will typically involve spending anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 in legal fees in addition to using team time, at a stage where time and funds are scarce; so the decision is rarely taken lightly. Read More

Despite Technology Issues & Crop Costs, Investor Interest in 2nd Generation Biomass Remains

May 10, 2012 |

Biomass-based biofuels – fuels produced from renewable biological resources – are arguably the most successful of sustainable agriculture sectors when it comes to attracting investors. While other sectors were fortunate to break $100 million in investments, 33 biomass deals raked in just under $1.4 billion last year, according to industry journal Biofuels Digest. Read More

Sustainable Agriculture Startups Chase Venture Capital While Gov’t Grants May be a Better Option

April 3, 2012 |

For a startup, the odds of obtaining venture capital funding are lower than one in 100[1], likely less for a sustainable agriculture startup as I’ve covered elsewhere. The odds of securing a federal grant on the other hand are more like one in six [2], and they rise if you’re a student or university researcher. Yet, most agriculture startups spend a disproportionate amount of time chasing venture capital, and comparatively little considering grants as an option.

In the not too distant past, startups developed using government grants as opposed to equity investments were considered less hip than their venture capital backed brethren; the rationale being in part that those receiving grants would be less apt to move their idea speedily towards commercialization. Read More