The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is expanding its program to advance technologies that address the interconnection of food, water and energy. The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will be a strategic partner to help further develop and validate promising agriculture technologies addressing critical sustainability challenges. The announcement was made at Danforth’s Ag Innovation Showcase on Sept. 11 in St. Louis.
“In looking to expand IN2, we discovered that one of the greatest opportunities for creating smart, connected, sustainable cities is finding efficiencies in the connections among food, energy and water use,” said Mary Wenzel, head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Wells Fargo and IN2 board member. “Agriculture uses 70 percent of global water and 14 percent of global energy, and our IN2 program is uniquely positioned to further the development and commercialization of technologies that reduce agriculture’s carbon, energy and water impact.”
The Danforth Plant Science Center, the world’s largest independent plant science institute, will focus on research and validation of innovative solutions that address how to use digital agriculture to produce food more sustainably, much like the way NREL leads the program’s validation of technologies related to commercial buildings. Future IN2 activities under the food-water-energy nexus will include food system inefficiencies and water conservation to help meet IN2’s goal of advancing smart, connected communities.
“We are extremely pleased to be working with an organization that deeply understands the trifecta of basic science, innovation and commercialization,” said Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at NREL. “We cannot wait to see the benefit our next round of portfolio companies will receive.”
“As one of the largest lenders to the agriculture and agricultural technology (agtech) sectors, Wells Fargo will bring its expertise to bear in helping these early-stage startups make it to the commercial marketplace,” noted Ramsay Huntley, Clean Technology and Innovation Philanthropy program officer with Wells Fargo.
“Wells Fargo and NREL, through the expanded IN2 program, are the right partners with which to accelerate delivery of benefits from science and technology on the farm,” said Jim Carrington, president of Danforth Plant Science Center. “We are excited about this new partnership as a way to combine the focused scientific research capability at the center with pressing needs to deliver more sustainable and productive agriculture.”
IN2 finds and selects companies through a network of Channel Partners consisting of incubators, accelerators and universities across the U.S. After validation, participating companies with commercially ready technologies have the potential to beta test with a strategic program partner. IN2 already is examining its networks for potential beta testing partners and plans to announce the selection of Round 5 agtech portfolio companies in spring 2019. To date, IN2 has funded 20 early-stage companies that have gone on to raise $89.5 million in follow-on funding from external sources.
“For 20 years, the Danforth Center has been a driver in the growth of the food and agriculture innovation ecosystem,” said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer at Danforth Plant Science Center. “By leveraging the center’s excellence in plant research and its best-in-class technology infrastructure, the expanded IN2 platform will help accelerate agriculture technology commercialization for early-stage companies across the U.S. and the world.”
For a complete list of IN2 portfolio companies, visit in2ecosystem.com/portfolio-companies.