Nonprofit partners with western Ky. group to bring farmers together with agritech startups
Some far western Kentucky farmers will gain access to improved and innovative technologies through a new agreement with a Tennessee agriculture nonprofit.
The Memphis-based nonprofit AG Launch signed an agreement in October with the West Kentucky Alliance for a Vibrant Economy (WAVE) – a development group focused on bringing economic opportunities to Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton and Hickman counties. The two groups hope their partnership fosters technical innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.
WAVE will serve as AG Launch’s “boots on the ground,” recruiting a diverse set of local farmers into the program and training them to be able to work with agritech startups. The partnership will work with farmers in historically underserved communities and give them access to “cutting-edge” technology and innovative agricultural techniques.
“This partnership will allow us to expand AgLaunch’s farmer-led, open innovation model in a way that leverages the unique attributes of food and ag production in Kentucky,” said AgLaunch president Pete Nelson.
WAVE regional facilitator Tony Brannon said the partnership will help push innovation by bringing some of the country’s best farmers together.
“This is a very productive area of the state,” Brannon said. “This is something where you take your best farmers and you engage them with these companies and you see what comes out the bottom of the funnel.”
Farmers will receive training to work with agriculture startups and get access to new tools. Those farmers will then aid the startups through performing field trials, providing screenings and supplying data and expertise to the companies, which they’ll also have the opportunity to invest in.
AG Launch also trains farmers through their AgLaunch 365 Accelerator Program, which trains agricultural entrepreneurs in business startups and technology innovation. Farmers with the nonprofit serve in the program as mentors and speakers to help participants fine tune their products.
Farmers who participate in the trials for AG Launch will also have an opportunity to invest in the companies they meet.
Some of the technology includes precision agriculture, drone technology and data management. Brannon said the rate of innovation is rapid and farmers need to take advantage of it.
“Who knows what [technology will look like in 10 years,” Brannon said. “We are on the cusp on some exciting developments in agriculture and we hope it will continue.”
Brannon said WAVE looks past county lines and wants to promote the economic well-being of farmers in the four counties.
“We hope to continue, through partnerships and alliances, to drive agriculture and agribusiness in that region of the state,” Brannon said.