Innovation incubator to support ag-tech solutions to food, water, energy shortages | St. Louis Public Radio

Innovation incubator to support ag-tech solutions to food, water, energy shortages

Sep 17, 2018

The Denver-based Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator is expanding its program to St. Louis to support startups doing research in food, water and energy shortages.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will partner with the incubator, called IN2, to provide research labs and support for early stage startups.

IN2 was created in 2014 to support the development and commercialization of energy-related technology through early stage startups.

The Danforth Center’s chief operating officer, Sam Fiorello, called the Wells Fargo Foundation’s collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado “a ground-breaking, creative enterprise.”

“It’s really exciting that they have branched out from renewable energy and commercial buildings into food and ag,” Fiorello said. “It’s also nice for St. Louis; It helps enforce our brand as an ag-tech hub and that what we’re doing is best in class.”

Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at the energy laboratory, welcomed the opportunity to partner with the Danforth Plant Science Center.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with an organization that deeply understands the trifecta of basic science, innovation and commercialization,” she said.

Fiorello said next spring, five companies will be selected to receive up to $250,000 each along with research support and the opportunity to beta test at a Wells Fargo facility or with a strategic program partner. 

Agriculture uses 70 percent of global water and 14 percent of global energy according to IN2. Reducing agriculture’s carbon, energy and water impact along with improving sustainability and efficiency in these sectors are among the goals for IN2 funded technology.

“Those are really big, grand challenges,” said Fiorello. “And the Wells Fargo Foundation had the wisdom to say, 'Let’s tackle these.' I really think it’s going to make a difference in St. Louis and the world.”

To date, IN2 has funded 20 early stage companies that have gone on to raise $89.5 million in funding from external sources.

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