Techstars Launching Farm to Fork Accelerator in Twin Cities Next Year
A new technology startup accelerator led by Techstars, an entrepreneur mentorship network, will be premiering in Minneapolis come next year.
The new Farm to Fork Accelerator, which aims to draw in early- and late-stage startups with a food safety and security focus, will begin taking applications January 8, 2018 for a 13-week program next summer.
The accelerator already has two local allies: St. Paul-based water, hygiene and energy products maker Ecolab and Wayzata-based food and agriculture giant Cargill.
The aim of the program, Techstars said in a blog post, is to help budding businesses shape their business plan and improve their technology so they may one day secure capital and expand their industry reach. Ten startups will earn the trip to Minneapolis and, ultimately, exclusive mentorship from Ecolab and Cargill.
In a statement, Cargill’s chief innovation officer Justin Kershaw said the Farm to Fork Accelerator was an attractive opportunity for the 152-year-old company, particularly as a way to “inject startup energy” into it.
“This accelerator allows us to invest our time and resources in technology shaping the future of agriculture, and to address some of the greatest challenges facing the food system,” Kershaw said.
One of those challenges—which Ecolab noted in a separate release—is the rising demand for food. By 2030, the world will need 35 percent more food that what is produced today, the company said.
“Both Ecolab and Cargill are well positioned to help farm-to-fork entrepreneurs understand and address changing food trends,” said Ecolab CEO Doug Baker Jr. in prepared remarks. “Participants in our accelerator program will benefit from Ecolab’s expertise in sustainable food processing and food safety, as well as Cargill’s knowledge of agriculture and food production.”
Techstars, founded in Boulder, Colorado in 2006, offers a wide array of industry-focused accelerators—37 to be exact—in locations around the country (and soon Asia).
The Farm to Fork Accelerator, however, won’t be the first Techstars program to land in the Twin Cities. Last year, the company teamed up with Target on a similarly structured 13-week retail accelerator program.
Brett Brohl, the former entrepreneur in residence for the Target accelerator, will be leading the new Farm to Fork Accelerator as its managing director.
In a blog post, Brohl said the reason Techstars picked Minneapolis as the accelerator’s home was a strategic one. “Minnesota was built by food and agriculture innovators over 150 years ago along the banks of the Mississippi and it continues to be a thriving, supportive place to build a company,” he wrote.
Today, the Twin Cities plays host to food and ag businesses with more than $25 billion in annual revenues and nearly 100,000 employees. Brohl, in his post, referred to the area as “the center of the food and ag tech world.”
Provided the program is well-received, it is expected to continue for three total years. More information about the Food to Fork Accelerator can be found here.