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Health, Science, Environment

Gates Foundation To Build Crop Technology Nonprofit In St. Louis

Christine Anyeko, a laborer in Uganda's northern Amuru district, weeds a field of cassava, banana and beans by hand.
File Photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to build an agriculture technology nonprofit to help small farms in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to build a nonprofit organization in St. Louis to advance technologies that would help small farms in developing countries. 

The nonprofit, to be named Gates Ag One, will focus on more rapidly developing seeds and technologies that could help farmers in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa raise yields. 

The foundation also aims to help growers adapt to more frequent droughts, floods and other extreme weather events brought on by climate change.

“Smallholder farmers need new innovations to help them adapt,” the Gates Foundation noted in a press release. “Without these innovations, farmers will be forced into increasingly unsustainable practices to feed their families while coping with climate change — like expanding crop production and grazing into forests and other fragile ecosystems. Such tactics would further damage the environment and exacerbate the effects of climate change.”

Joe Cornelius, a director at the foundation’s Global Growth & Opportunity division, will lead Gates Ag One. Gates Foundation officials declined to comment further. 

The St. Louis metro area has one of the largest concentrations of plant and agricultural scientists in the world. It served as headquarters to Monsanto, which German biotech company Bayer AG bought in 2018. 

The Gates Foundation awarded the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center $10.4 million in 2016 to bring its research on genetically modified cassava to Nigeria and $6.1 million in 2017 to support research on sorghum.

"The announcement that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will locate Gates Ag One in St. Louis is great news for our region and for global agriculture," Danforth Center Director Jim Carrington said in a statment. "The new organization will be complementary to the work and mission of the Danforth Center."

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