The Importance of Collaboration and Innovation in Agriculture

Tuesday, April 17, 2018
By: Kelly O’Halloran

Ag Innovation isn't just happening above ground; it is happening below, as innovators use the soil's own microbiome to give crops a boost. These technological innovators are using science to transform the future of agriculture.

On March 22, 2018, The CoLaborator officially opened in West Sacramento, California. This event brought together ag innovation enthusiasts from many different industries including universities, government, venture capital, media, and science. During this time, I spoke with four participants on the importance of collaboration and innovation in agriculture, which led to this blog series.

colaborator welcome

I first spoke with John Selep, president of AgStart, a non-profit that supports ag solutions from concept to commercialization. By understanding the startup and their goals, AgStart is able to connect them with other ag tech companies that can help them grow and succeed.

Colab panel

To better understand how the CoLab space would benefit AgStart, I needed to get a better understanding of John’s role in the company and why he’s excited to be working with Bayer.

John: “I am the President of AgStart which has been supporting food and ag technology startups in the region for 5 years. Bayer Crop Science has been one of our corporate sponsors for the last two years and is very supportive of the work we do. As we support startups, it’s great to see Bayer with their CoLaborator providing even more substantial support for startups in the region, helping companies mature so they can help benefit agriculture across the globe.”

Knowing that growers don’t always know what’s happening behind the scenes, I asked John to explain the benefits of innovation that is brought forth from sources like the CoLab space.

John: “Growers here in the Sacramento region have benefited from ag tech for the last century. The major industries here such as processed tomatoes, rice and ag supply and distribution all rely on that technology today. The reason we have a processed tomato industry is because of developments at the University of California Davis campus that developed a tomato that could survive mechanical harvesting. The next generations of technology are going to be in biologics and microbials, as well as information technology applied to agriculture. All of these things affect the productivity of agriculture. If developments here today can be active in the field 5 years from now, growers will no doubt benefit.”

I also asked how John saw Bayer’s CoLaborator helping to bring more talent to the region.

John: “Talent likes to be in an environment where there are other people of similar interests. There is an active cluster of companies active in microbial biologics here in the Sacramento region. Sacramento is not a place where companies want to be isolated from others in the same industry. There is a lot of energy that is created by having multiple companies working together, collaborating, sharing, presenting at UC Davis, or Seed Central on topics that are of interest. That attracts more talent, and more talent is good, for everybody.”

Stay tuned for the next blog in this innovation series, where we’ll hear the thoughts of agri-tech startup CEO Adrián Ferrero.


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