On March 28 and 29, the InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum was held in Kansas City, Missouri. The event featured several dozen early stage companies pitching to investors and was a great opportunity to showcase emerging companies in the life sciences, technology and food and ag-tech industries. The 2017 conference highlighted all of the startup and innovation activity occurring throughout the Midwest. RubinBrown attended the event, sitting in on the “Food/Ag/Bioenergy” track.
Below are the highlights we took away from the event:
Sustainability intersects with economics
The majority of the companies presenting in the ag track featured technologies that addressed sustainability and reduced the environmental impacts of agricultural production in some way. But they were not focusing on sustainability for the sake of sustainability. The value proposition to potential customers addressed lowering production costs with the added benefit of implementing or improving upon sustainable practices.
Market adoption seems to be increasing
Likely related to the first takeaway, we were impressed with the number of presenting companies that have gained traction in commercializing their innovation - evidenced by revenue, revenue growth and rapidly expanding adoption of many of these companies’ technologies and solutions.
Certain technology themes continue to emerge
While each company was certainly unique in their core technologies and value propositions, we noticed some clustering around certain technologies and commercialization strategies. Similar to last year, we are seeing a variety of technologies incorporated into production practices and the integration of hardware and software. But a few themes stood out to us this year, including:
- UAV enabled: Companies and technologies are leveraging drones for imaging, data collection, and applying inputs. UAV technology is well suited for use in agriculture as it provides a fast and efficient method of surveying large areas of land through automation, lower hardware and operational costs, and integration with data collection and analysis software.
- Data intensive: Predictive analytics and prescriptive recommendations depend upon quality data as an input in order to provide precise, stable, and insightful outputs (for example, crop productivity estimates or prescriptive recommendations for field applications). As more producers adopt technology and more companies focus on collecting data and refining analysis techniques, a virtuous cycle may be starting to emerge where the process feeds upon itself as more data is collected with increased adoption, enabling better solutions, leading to further adoption, and so on.
- Biological solutions continue to gain in prominence: Microbes and microbials, RNAi, probiotics continue to be on the forefront of innovation. These solutions are providing producers with additional tools to enhance productivity and yields while also, in many cases, providing more sustainable inputs that markets are demanding.
These were but a few of the takeaways we had coming out of two great days at the InvestMidwest Venture Capital Forum. It was a great program and RubinBrown is grateful to have had a chance to attend such an event that showcased the region and its leadership in innovation.
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