Work begins immediately for nine startup companies selected for the Farm to Fork Accelerator Program in St. Paul, Techstars announced Monday.
The participating startups, which come to Minnesota from Brazil, India and Canada and various U.S. states, will spend the next three months in Techstar's incubator.
Techstars, a Boulder, Colo.-based business development organization, designed its Farm to Fork program specifically for food and agriculture entrepreneurs. This is the first of three participant cohorts in the three-year program created in partnership with St. Paul-based Ecolab and Minnetonka-based Cargill.
The participating companies cut a wide swath in this space — from Austin, Texas-based Big Wheelbarrow, which seeks to leverage artificial intelligence to connect buyers with local food growers, to Canada-based EIO Diagnostics, which uses imaging technology for early detection of illness in dairy cows.
While in Minnesota, the creators of these small companies will have access to more than a hundred mentors, including executives from Cargill and Ecolab.
"We really looked for teams that could move quickly and execute quickly, because the company might end up doing something totally different in four months from what they are doing today," said Brett Brohl, managing director for the Farm to Fork Accelerator.
Techstars aims to jump-start good ideas, while the sponsoring corporations hope to identify and invest in emerging technologies that could help their interests. Farm to Fork is one of 15 new Techstars accelerators, part of 41 Techstars accelerator programs globally. One in Minneapolis is focused on retail in partnerships with Target Corp.
Dishq, one of the participants in the Farm to Fork accelerator, uses food science and computer learning to predict people's taste, said Kishan Vasani, co-founder and chief executive of the startup. He hopes to tap into the data and expertise of Cargill, Ecolab and Techstars to make sure they are actually addressing what the market needs.
"We are developing a technology that can predict what you want to eat before you do — essentially building a food brain," Vasani said.
St. Paul city boosters, as well as Ecolab's Chief Executive Doug Baker, campaigned to host the incubator in St. Paul with the hope that it will attract entrepreneurial businesses.
This is the first of three batches of young tech companies focused on agriculture, food safety, waste reduction, traceability and supply chain that Farm to Fork will select and host over the next three years.
"They stay here for three months and hopefully some of them will open offices in the Twin Cities," Brohl said. "That happens sometimes, and we would love to see it happen here."
The complete participant list is: Big Wheelbarrow, Dishq, EIO Diagnostics, HeavyConnect, Pepr, Induction Food Systems, Renewal Mill, TradeLanes and Travie.