Southern New Mexico is ripe with agripreneurs – agricultural entrepreneurs – of all varieties. AgSprint, part of the suite of accelerator programs at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, grows and supports new agtech startups as they blossom in the heart of the desert.
Now in its second year, AgSprint announces open applications for the Spring 2018 cohort, available online. The application deadline is March 21.
AgSprint offers agtech startups the curriculum and tools to perform customer discovery in a cohort setting. Teams do not need any prior NMSU affiliation to be considered, and can participate in the program’s curriculum and its weekly workshops virtually or in person. The transformative five-month program is sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and New Mexico Gas Company.
Other Arrowhead Accelerator cohorts include BizSprint, which supports New Mexico-based startups that plan to sell products and services outside the state, and HealthSprint, which focuses on healthtech innovations and startups.
Members of the inaugural AgSprint 2017 cohort – Wendy Lu McGill, co-founder of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, and Roch Hart, founder of Wildlife Protection Management – represent a section of the wide spectrum of eligibility for the agtech accelerator.
Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch raises crickets for wholesale to restaurants and food manufacturers and also carries a full line of edible insect products, while Wildlife Protection Management developed an innovative wild (feral) horse feeding station that can also deliver vaccinations, RFID chips, and birth control.
McGill explained that being part of the accelerator gave Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch timely credibility and exposure.
“More importantly, the learning, networking and access to expert advice and mentoring has helped our company grow our customer base, launch new product lines, doing so with careful planning from what we learned through AgSprint,” McGill said.
Hart said that AgSprint provided structure, pushed his team, provided direction, and gave them recognition. Regarding the structure of customer discovery education.
“Using the NSF I-Corps curriculum it provided a clear understanding of a potential business, or not,” Hart said. “Knowing that you either have something or you do not saves so much time. I think being ready for a ‘no’ answers is just as important as a ‘yes.'”
I-Corps is a National Science Foundation model that tests the feasibility of a venture. It is an NSF initiative to leverage university research to create new innovative businesses and increase the economic impact of inventions created at research institutions around the country.
“Knowing that I had deadlines, homework and presentation preparation made it akin to a business boot camp, and I think that is important since taking a concept to reality takes much determination, faith and research. It tests the will of the entrepreneur as much as the endeavor itself,” Hart said.
Both entrepreneurs pitched their businesses at AgAssembly, a conference at the culmination of AgSprint, held at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. AgAssembly brought together a group of productive local and national ag-market leaders to talk about demands from the frontlines, translating ideas from vision to reality, and the future of agricultural technology investment. This year’s AgAssembly conference will take place in August, when the new AgSprint cohort will again have the chance to pitch to industry experts and investors.
As they move into further prototype testing and business growth, Arrowhead continues to support Hart and McGill through mentorship and through engagement in its statewide resource network. While the entrepreneurs are in very different facets of agriculture, both share a passion and dedication that drives them in their business ventures, and both continue to find success in post-accelerator life.
“The support we continue to get from the Arrowhead Center, becoming part of a family of entrepreneurs and the network Arrowhead has gathered to support us, continues to help Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch climb the startup peak,” McGill said.
Likewise, Hart said, “There was so much to learn and still is so much to learn. AgSprint gave me the confidence that I can do it, and allowed me my shot. That is all I can ask for.”
For agripreneurs who believe they would benefit from this inclusive accelerator opportunity, they can visit the website by March 21 to apply for the Spring 2018 cohort.
Author: Lauren Goldstein – NMSU