Wells Fargo Funded Innovation Incubator Selects First Cohort of Agtech Startups Focused on Sustainable Solutions

Partnership with Danforth Plant Science Center seeks to accelerate technologies that focus on sustainable farming solutions to improve harvests and protect natural resources.


Newswise — ST. LOUIS, MO – May 13, 2019 – The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), today announced it has selected five early-stage companies for the program’s first agtech cohort. Each company participating in this invitation-only program will receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding to further develop and validate its technology with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (Danforth Center), the world’s largest independent plant science institute.

Danforth Center scientists will be paired with each of the five companies and will conduct research to further develop and validate their innovative solutions that address how to use digital agriculture to produce food more sustainably. 

“These five companies are driving innovation and new breakthroughs that will ultimately improve the way that we grow, make, distribute and consume food and use resources,” said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer at the Danforth Center. “We are proud to be a strategic partner helping to accelerate promising technologies that tackle these critical challenges.”

IN2 AGTECH COHORT 

Aker Technologies (Chicago, IL) Automated crop-scouting process that captures and analyzes the presence and intensity of pests and pathogens below the crop canopy. Malia Gehan, Ph.D. and Rebecca Bart, Ph.D.,  of the Danforth Center will serve as Principal Investigators.

CoverCress (St. Louis, MO) Winter crop that covers soil over winter, protecting it from harsh conditions, while producing a low-carbon intensity crop for renewable fuel and food. Dmitri Nusinow, Ph.D., and Dilip Shah Ph.D., of the Danforth Center will serve as Principal Investigators.

Intrinsyx Bio (Los Altos, CA) Plant probiotics that increase crop yield, reduce excess fertilizer and improve soil and water conditions. Ivan Baxter, Ph.D., and Rebecca Bart, Ph.D., of the Danforth Center will serve as Principal Investigators.

RNAissance Ag (St. Louis, MO) Safe, effective and environmentally sustainable insecticide for precision pest management.  Noah Fahlgren, Ph.D., of the Danforth Center will serve as Principal Investigator.

SolGro (Arlington, Texas) Nanoparticle film designed to increase crop productivity through light conversion on greenhouses.  Ru Zhang, Ph.D. and  Jim Umen, Ph.D., of the Danforth Center will serve as Prinicipal Investigators.  

“We are very excited to be working with the Danforth Center to test and validate our next cohort of companies,” said Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at NREL. “Looking at the how our food, water and energy resources can be used more efficiently and effectively is a big part of the mission of this program. We look forward to working with these companies and the Danforth Center in addressing that challenge.”

IN2 finds and selects companies through its Channel Partners, a curated network of incubators, accelerators and universities across the United States that refer startups to the program. Once referred, companies participate in a highly competitive application and selection process to determine which will be invited into the next cohort of participants. To help guide the selection process for the first agtech cohort, IN2 commissioned a white paper entitled “IN2 Food, Energy, Water Landscape,” to determine where its impact would be most beneficial.

“Wells Fargo has a long history of working with farmers and companies throughout the agriculture value chain,” said Ramsay Huntley, Clean Technology and Innovation Philanthropy program officer for Wells Fargo. “This program expansion into agriculture really aligns with our philanthropic mission to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy by supporting innovators and entrepreneurs focused on sustainable ideas that can shape the future of farming.” 

IN2 launched in 2014 with a focus on supporting scalable solutions that improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings and announced its expanded its charter at the 10th annual Ag Innovation Showcase in 2018 to advance the agriculture industry, which accounts for approximately 70 percent of the water and 14 percent of the energy usage worldwide. In expanding into agriculture, IN2 speeds the development and commercialization of technologies that help the agriculture sector overcome barriers and costs of implementing sustainable farming solutions.

With the addition of these five companies, IN2 brings its total portfolio count to 30 cleantech and agtech startups. Since joining the IN2 program, portfolio companies have raised $142 million from external follow-on funding—on average, more than $20 for every $1 awarded by IN2.  For a complete list of IN2 portfolio companies and Channel Partners, visit in2ecosystem.com.

About the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) is a $30 million technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation. Co-administered by and housed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, IN2’s mission is to speed the path to market for early-stage, clean-technology entrepreneurs. Launched in 2014 with an initial focus on supporting scalable solutions to reduce the energy impact of commercial buildings, IN2 expanded its focus in 2018 to advance technologies that address the interconnection of food, energy and water. Companies selected for participation in the program receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding, technical support and validation from experts at NREL and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and ongoing connections to organizations across value chains. For more information, visit in2ecosystem.com.

About the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a nonprofit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and through the support of individuals and corporations. For more information please visit, www.danforthcenter.org

About Wells Fargo

Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE:WFC) provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,800 locations, more than 13,000 ATMs and the internet (wellsfargo.com). Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. With approximately 259,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 26 on Fortune’s 2018 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In 2018, Wells Fargo donated more than $444 million to nearly 11,000 nonprofits in support of affordable housing, small business growth, financial education and sustainability, among other community needs. For 10 consecutive years, Wells Fargo has held the honor of No. 1 in workplace giving by United Way Worldwide. Wells Fargo team members also make a difference by donating more than 2 million hours of volunteer time in the last year. News, insights and more information on the company’s corporate responsibility are available at Wells Fargo Stories.

For more information contact:

Danforth Plant Science Center, Karla Roeber, kroeber@danforthcenter.org, 314.406.4287

IN2, Bill Rigler, 917.415-0612, brigler@mapr.agency

Wells Fargo, E.J. Bernacki, ejbernacki@wellsfargo.com

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