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Ag tech

Adrian Percy, head of research and development at Bayer CropScience, delivers the keynote speech  at the 2017 Ag Innovation Showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

As European regulators investigate the potential $66 billion Bayer-Monsanto merger, Bayer's CropScience division is preparing to address challenges in crop technology, especially those tied to Monsanto's products. 

At the annual Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis hosted by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Adrian Percy, Bayer CropScience's head of research and development, said a priority for the merged companies would be addressing a decline in pollinators and meeting the high demand for herbicides to combat resistant weeds.

39 North Master Plan, Ayers Saint Gross

The public can hear more about plans for 39 North, the 600-acre plant science innovation district in Creve Coeur, on Thursday night.

The Danforth Center is hosting the discussion, which will include panelists Creve Coeur Mayor Barry Glantz, Travis Sheridan,  CIC Venture Café Global Institute President, and Sheila Sweeney,  St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO .

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center | provided

Researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center are working on a device that  they hope to eventually sell to farmers.

The PheNode can monitor a variety of crop conditions, such as wind speed, humidity, soil nutrients, even air quality, and it can take pictures. Researchers and farmers could then get that information sent to their mobile devices as often as they choose.

Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday to open 36 new greenhouses at its Chesterfield Research Center.

The celebration of the state-of-the-art greenhouses was held against the backdrop of last month's announcement that Bayer will buy Monsanto in a $66 billion deal.

Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant told the crowd, made up of mostly employees and a few members of the media, that Bayer's acquisition is an opportunity.

(Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio)

Two years ago BioSTL set out to put St. Louis on Israel’s radar.

The non-profit, founded in 2001, helped develop the support system for St. Louis bioscience startups. Then, a few years ago, president and CEO Donn Rubin started hearing that Israeli startups were expanding into other U.S. cities.

Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

It’s hard to overstate how big of a deal the National Ploughing Championships are in Ireland.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny attended the annual event last month near Tullamore, along with about 300,000 people for what is considered the largest ag showcase in Europe.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O’Malley, was also there, wearing a business suit, green tie, and wellies, the rubber boots everyone wears to "the Ploughing."

Monsanto
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Losing a corporate headquarters is generally not considered good news.

Yet the announcement that Creve Coeur-based Monsanto is likely to be acquired by Bayer is being viewed by many in the startup community as a positive.

Maria Altman | St. Louis Public Radio

On a Sunday morning in Tel Aviv the streets are bustling. It’s the first day of the work week for Israelis.

BioSTL’s man in Israel, Uri Attir, has set up meetings with five startups companies. The first is at Hebrew University’s agriculture school in Rehovot, a southern suburb of the city.

In a small university conference room, a plant science professor and his three-member team present their business. The audience consists of three members of the non-profit BioSTL and a representative from the Danforth Plant Science Center.

A view of the National Ploughing Championships in Ireland.
Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

In a glass-encased room under a white tent, ag tech startups took to a stage in a pitch competition on Tuesday. It was just a small part of the National Ploughing Championships in Ireland, what is now the largest ag trade show in Europe.

The competition between startups in that small room, not tractors out in the fields, was the reason two St. Louis organizations made the trip to Tullamore, Ireland this week. Both BioSTL and the Yield Lab are looking to plug into the Irish ag tech startup community.

"It turns out that Ireland is jam-packed with innovation," said Donn Rubin, CEO and president of BioSTL.

The Yield Lab, a St. Louis-based food and ag tech accelerator, is planning to expand into Galway, Ireland.

The incubator launched in 2014, investing $100,000 in startups and providing mentorship over a nine-month program. Managing director Thad Simons said part of the reason to create Yield Lab Galway is to gain access to both European startups and markets.

courtesy NewLeaf Symbiotics

NewLeaf Symbiotics is growing fast.

Formed in 2012, the startup has nearly 40 employees and has hired four executives in the last year.

The latest executive to come on board is Dr. Janne Kerovuo, the head of Monsanto’s Microbial Discovery Strategy since 2013. He’ll now be NewLeaf’s Vice President for Research and Discovery.

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will dedicate a new wing of the facility on Friday. The expansion is called the William H. Danforth Wing, in honor of the founding chairman who helped create the plant science center in 1998.

"Everyone thinks I had a big plan when we started. You know you have to feel your way. That’s what you do in life,” Dr. William Danforth told St. Louis Public Radio. “We’re now far ahead of where I thought we would be when we started.”

(courtesy BioSTL)

NRGene is an ag tech company based in Israel that will soon have a presence in St. Louis.

"Settling in St. Louis is actually a pretty easy decision," said Paul Chomet, who will head up the office here.

He said that’s because NRGene, which uses big data analytics to identify genetic traits and improve crops, has dealt with ag companies and scientists in St. Louis previously. That includes the world-renowned Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: St. Louis has become a hub for agricultural sciences and commercialization but still lags in capital formation. That was the sentiment expressed by attendees at the Ag Innovation Showcase held at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center this week during a series of breakfast interviews by the Beacon.