As John Dombrosky sees it, great research and new technology in agriculture doesn’t do much good until it can be used right on the farm to improve farm income.
“Scientists at great land grand universities such as N.C State, Purdue and the University of California Davis create a great deal of novel technology, but it’s often difficult to transfer that technology into a new product because you need facilities, management talent, scientific acumen, lab space, greenhouse space and capital to turn a great idea into a finished product that a farmer can use,” explains Dombrosky, a former Syngenta executive who is now CEO of AgTech Accelerator, a new venture formed in May in Research Triangle Park that will fund new agricultural technology startups.
In an interview with Southeast Farm Press, Dombrosky explains that AgTech Accelerator is a first of a kind venture for agriculture that is geared toward developing innovative agricultural technology companies. The model has proven successful in the pharmaceutical business, and Dombrosky says he is confident it will succeed in agriculture as well.
Goal is $25 million by end of year
Already, AgTech Accelerator has raised $11.5 million in initial funding with a goal of raising $25 million to $30 million by the end of the year, Dombrosky said. “We hope to startup two to three new companies per year,” he added.
“We will find great scintistes with innovative new technology and form a company around their idea, allowing them to focus on what they are good at, which is the science. We will bring the capital and do the business building,” he said.
Dombrosky called the possibilities limitless, both for animal health and plant health across the value chain. “We will provide a really healthy entrepreneurial underpinning to help provide technology that producers and consumers really need. Producing technology for its own sake isn’t what we’re about. We’re about creating something useful that will increase farm income,” he said.
Technologies that AgTech Accelerator might fund could include gene silencing, gene editing and other biotechnology tools as well as data analytics, biologics and microbiome work. “The goal is to compress the product development cycle so we can deliver better technologies to growers quicker; we will build businesses that otherwise might not be formed,” Dombrosky explained.
“We could fund workflow companies to help growers navigate the increasingly complex regulatory environment. We could support a company that could turn the negative of compliance pressure to a positive that will allow growers to gain more value for their work. For example, we could support a software platform or app to allow them to track and trace what they are doing on the farm,” he said. “Growers are hungry for new technology, and we can help provide it to them.”
The goal, he said, is to fill the gap between the land grant universities and large agribusiness with annual budgets of $10 billion to $15 billion that often face hurdles working with universities. “We can help translate that technology so it is de-risked and ready to be assembled into a better, bigger platform,” he stressed.
Investors participating in the financing of AgTech Accelerator include Bayer, Syngenta Ventures, Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures, Harris & Harris Group, Inc., Hatteras Venture Partners, Mountain Group Capital and Pappas Capital. The formation of AgTech Accelerator was spearheaded by Alexandria Real Estate Equities, a real estate investment trust that leases about 1 million square feet of space in Research Triangle Park to pharma and ag biotech companies.
For more information, visit www.agtechaccelerator.com