NMSU Arrowhead Center’s 2018 AgSprint Business Accelerator Showcases Diverse Cohort

For the second year, groundbreaking innovation is taking place with a cohort of entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector. New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center AgSprint accelerator is in full swing, as the cohort of eight companies looks to disrupt industry status quo.

AgSprint offers innovators in agriculture the tools to perform customer discovery in a cohort setting. Teams selected for the program receive education, mentorship and funding, including $2,000 in participant support and one $20,000 investment.

“We are thrilled to host this exceptional accelerator class,” said Zetdi Sloan, director of Arrowhead’s Sprint Accelerator programs. “This distinct cohort reflects the diverse industries, age ranges, ethnicities and gender that is truly indicative of the New Mexico landscape. We look forward to continue working closely with each team to strategically refine and progress their businesses, by tapping our curated network of mentors, speakers and funders.”

Teams do not need any prior NMSU affiliation to be considered and can participate in the program’s curriculum and weekly workshops virtually or in person. The five-month program is sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and New Mexico Gas Company.

Fifty percent of this year’s companies are women-led and collectively, and 72 percent of Arrowhead’s Sprint Accelerator programs (AgSprint, HealthSprint and BizSprint) are comprised of women, veteran or minority owners.

The companies currently participating in the 2018 cohort are:

— Reap’s data-driven app helps farmers plan and predict crop cycles and comply with regulations and certifications, saving time, money and guesswork.
— Exotic Harvest Gourmet provides fresh, high quality, sustainably grown gourmet foods including escargot, freshwater blue lobsters, organic produce, spices and herbs to chefs, restaurants and those interested in natural foods.
— Wellspring Water Technologies uses unique, proprietary technologies to solve the agricultural, commercial and residential water quality and supply problems that no one else can.
— Dr. Child’s bitter herbal remedies, gathered from the high desert of northern New Mexico, help prevent infection and treat inflammation of the upper respiratory tract associated with the exposure to dry air and altitude. The company uses wild-harvested herbal ingredients that have a long history in herbal medicine and now have a mechanism of action backed by medical research.
— Sustainable Planet Solutions designs solar portable power systems for remote location use.
— GreenAI crop analytics turns data into field ready, actionable decisions to get the most out of every acre.
— FieldMAK’s modular, rugged sensor array will allow on-site, rapid testing for farmers, resulting in better yields, cheaper costs and halted diseases.
— Food-Origins brings the benefits of IOT to high value, hand-picked crops.

The cohort companies have had multiple successes over the duration of the AgSprint program; MagPi Innovations, creators of FieldMAK, secured $25,000 at the University of New Mexico as first place winner of their Business Plan Competition, Food-Origins secured $20,000 at the Startups Ventura County competition, and Systems Technology Solutions, LLC, creator of GreenAI, was accepted into AgriNovus, Indiana’s agbiosciences industry sector initiative.

AgSprint doesn’t just prepare teams for a demo-day, the program prepares them to continue to innovate. Arrowhead accelerators provide additional programs and tools to support teams’ transitions to next steps.

At the conclusion of the customer discovery section of the accelerator curriculum, the cohort participated in a Strategic Doing workshop to plan next steps in their commercialization process. Strategic Doing, developed at the Purdue Agile Strategy Lab, is an innovative thinking/doing process based on agile software development.

The discipline manages the tension around collaboration by teaching participants how to form sophisticated collaborations quickly, move towards measurable outcomes, and make incremental adjustments and pivots as circumstances change.

Each week for the remainder of the five-month program, the teams will meet with business development, investment, and science and technology advisors. In addition, network expertise is supplemented with Enterprise Advisors and subject matter experts from the Arrowhead Innovation Network.

Post-accelerator and beyond, the teams become members of Arrowhead Ventures, a next steps program that keeps teams connected to Arrowhead resources as they continue their path to commercialization.

Services include access to Arrowhead’s enterprise advisor network, online entrepreneurship curriculum models for self-paced learning, eligibility for the Arrowhead Innovation Fund, an early stage seed investment fund, advising and support from the Arrowhead team, follow on funding opportunities and general support for business development and momentum.

The culminating AgAssembly conference will take place on Septeber 6 at the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. With industry partner New Mexico Gas Company, an Emera Company, the conference offers a chance for the AgSprint cohort to pitch to industry experts and investors.

The event brings 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.

Author: Lauren Goldstein – NMSU