July 15, 2016
By John Breslin
The Yield Lab, the United States’ first food and agriculture technology (AgTech) business accelerator, announced the launch of the Yield Lab Galway, in the PorterShed on Friday, 15 July. The Yield Lab Galway is a food and AgTech venture fund and business accelerator, located in Galway, Ireland. The Yield Lab Galway is a significant boost to the investment opportunities available to emerging AgTech and agriculture innovation spinouts and startups from Galway.
The Yield Lab is an early-stage venture fund and business accelerator that invests $100,000 in early-stage food and AgTech startups, provides one-on-one mentorship, free workspace, and networking opportunities supported by agriculture-focused organisations and businesses from the St. Louis region.
Agriculture is a leading industry in the US Midwest, with extensive business connections to the St. Louis region and beyond. The diversity, central location, and solid business community support makes the St. Louis region a leading market for AgTech expansion. St. Louis is a sister city with Galway, which has an emerging and vibrant agriculture innovation system.
“We believe finding innovative solutions to sustainably feed the world’s rapidly growing population is the biggest problem facing humankind today,” said Yield Lab Managing Director Thad Simons. “The launch of the Yield Lab Galway is the appropriate next step and will provide greater access to financial and strategic opportunities for both our St. Louis- and Galway-based investments.”
The Yield Lab Galway has been established on the same building blocks and strategy of sourcing, transacting, and mentoring as the Yield Lab in St. Louis. The fund plans to invest in 8-12 companies over the next two years. Each Galway-based food and AgTech startup will receive up to €100,000 and participate in a twelve-month accelerator program.
Professor Charles Spillane, Head of the Plant & AgriBiosciences Research Centre (PABC) at NUI Galway highlighted that: “The Yield Lab’s establishment of its first European base in Galway is extremely exciting for the translation of agriculture research activities into agriculture innovations and AgTech startup companies. The multi-disciplinary PABC looks forward to collaborating and working closely with the Yield Lab Galway as one of its key investment and startup partners. The sustainable intensification challenges facing the agriculture and food sector in Ireland, and internationally, present opportunities and necessities for the development of disruptive agriculture innovations that the Yield Lab can foster.”
Dr John Breslin, one of the founders of the PorterShed and a PABC Principal Investigator, highlighted significant synergies between the Yield Lab and the NUI Galway AgTechInnovate program which he leads.
He indicated that: “AgTechInnovate is a new Fellowship Programme from NUI Galway which aims to create interdisciplinary teams of technology entrepreneurs (“techpreneurs”) who are embedded in a particular domain for 6-8 weeks to identify real needs, following which they invent, implement and iterate solutions. In the case of AgTechInnovate, this would be in an agricultural environment, with our initial plans to immerse the 2016 AgTechInnovate team in 10 large dairy farms.
“Spinouts emerging from AgTechInnovate will have the opportunity to pitch to the local Yield Lab Galway for investment. The establishment of Yield Lab Galway will further strengthen the agriculture innovation ecosystem in the West of Ireland, which includes the NUI Galway PABC, Teagasc Athenry, Mountbellew Agricultural College, GMIT and agriculture innovators like JFC, Food 360 and McHale.”
“AgTech companies work in a global economy and our goal is to build a bridge to St. Louis for Irish AgTech companies looking for a US footprint,” said Joe Reagan, President & CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber. “In St. Louis, we are focused on supporting entrepreneurs and innovators, and our economic development strategies in the 21st Century must be bold and innovative as well.” The St. Louis Regional Chamber has made a founding investment in the Yield Lab Galway from its Spirit of St. Louis Ventures fund, which has previously made founding investments in five early-stage business accelerators as part of a comprehensive strategy to support the formation of early-stage capital and to support entrepreneurs.
Galway was the obvious choice for the Yield Lab to establish a European footprint due to the strong relationship as a sister city with St. Louis. It also offers a number of regional resources such as the multi-disciplinary NUI Galway PABC, GMIT, Teagasc Athenry, Mountbellew Agricultural College and a central location to the vast agricultural production systems of the west of Ireland. Galway has built itself into an entrepreneurial stronghold, boasting a thriving technology park and growing support ecosystem for innovators.
“Cultivation Capital has developed a significant interest in agricultural technologies,” said General Partner Rick Holton. “The Yield Lab has provided us with valuable insight into their portfolio companies that has consistently presented Cultivation with the opportunity to capitalize on promising investments. This was the value proposition that led us to invest in St. Louis, and this is why we are investing in Galway.”
“The new Yield Lab partnership enables a two-way street of economic activity between St. Louis and Galway. The growing Yield Lab portfolio in both regions will now have overseas networks to leverage. The Yield Lab Galway portfolio companies will attend a programming session in St. Louis to provide them with opportunities to access US markets and alternative sources of capital, and the Yield Lab St. Louis companies will be encouraged to leverage the resources unique to Galway. This marks a critical milestone for the St. Louis entrepreneurial and economic ecosystem. This bridge of economic activity with Galway should bring further opportunities for St. Louis.” said Sheila Sweeney, CEO of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.