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TechAccel wants to 'de-risk' agricultural, animal nutrition and health technologies

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Aerin Curtis

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

Last updated on 08-Sep-2017 at 11:52 GMT2017-09-08T11:52:43Z

© iStock/NicoElNino
© iStock/NicoElNino

The Kansas-headquartered company seeks to collaborate with start-ups or support development of a university project to the stage where it would be commercially viable.

“We’re looking for technology that is available, sometimes stranded at universities, sometimes stranded on industry shelves,” TechAccel CEO, Michael Helmstetter, told FeedNavigator. “For whatever reason, they’re not able to bring it forward.”

In ag, animal health and nutrition or crop science, there can be a large number of technologies caught in that limbo, he said. “It’s a high risk time because you’re taking something developed in the lab to the [real world] - that’s where we want to play,” he added.

TechAccel is currently working on five equity investments and engaged science advancement projects with University of California–Davis, Kansas State University, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and a growing list of other research universities in the US and internationally.

The research focus is varied: from enzyme production in plants to gene editing tools to cloud biology, epigenetic crop enhancements, RNA interference for pest control, novel food safety approaches, and animal vaccines.

Since its launch in 2014, TechAccel has made investments in five tech companies. In 2017, the company invested in Iowa-based feed enzyme producer, Agrivida, and Nebraska-based Epicrop Technologies, a business that uses epigenetics to improve crop yields.

"One of the areas that we’re really focused on is aquaculture,” added the CEO.

Emerging US AgTech innovation hubs

Meanwhile, the CEO noted that a new research and development region related to AgTech would appear to be taking off in the US.

He said that, currently, there are three primary locations emerging as innovation hubs for those fields: St Louis, Kansas City and the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

“People are starting to say there’s good synergy potential between those three locations and that there is opportunity for that collaboration in this triangle.”

If you just graduated in crop science, you’re going to pay attention to those regions; if you’re a start-up, you’re going to pay attention to the regionsA presence there is right for potential investment and hiring talent – we want to be in the middle of it.”

He said, though, a concerted effort is needed to widen the range companies setting up in Kansas City: “[It is] the nation’s leader in animal health and animal nutrition companies – it’s the largest concentration in the world within a short distance.

However, the goal is to have the area eventually less centered on the animal health sector and become a hub for the broader agribusiness industries, he said.

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