Sept. 12-14, 2016 | St. Louis, MO

The Ag Innovation Showcase is an intimate event that gathers the most influential and forward thinking minds in agriculture to incite industry-changing discussion around key themes. Each year, our goal has been simple but ambitious: to bring together thought leaders focused on issues of predominant interest to both the agricultural industry and society as a whole. As we build the sessions for 2017, please take a look at the topics and ideas we discussed at the 2016 event. 

2016 Sessions

Disruptive Dialogue: Gene editing - new frontiers, new challenges

This session will take place on Tuesday, September 13th from 10:25 AM - 11:25 AM

Advancements in gene editing technologies have the potential to reshape the planet, helping solve problems in feeding and healing the world’s populations.  As the science evolves and accelerates to develop more robust crops and better varieties, how does the agriculture innovation community engage effectively with the consumer about the real-world problems these technologies can solve? What can be learned from the GMO experience?

How does the ag industry develop the “social license” to implement emerging gene editing technologies on a large scale and gain the trust of consumers so that, for e.g., better food arrives on grocery store shelves? 

On this panel we examine CRISPR Cas9 as a case study to understand how diverse stakeholders within the agriculture community are working, and communicating with the consumer.

Rachel Haurwitz

Rachel Haurwitz President & CEO Caribou Biosciences

Neal Gutterson, Ph.D.

Neal Gutterson, Ph.D. VP, Research & Development DuPont Pioneer

Roxi Beck

Roxi Beck Director The Center for Food Integrity

Deepti Kulkarni

Deepti Kulkarni Senior Associate Sidley Austin LLP

Lauren  Manning

Lauren Manning Agriculture Technology & Investment Journalist AgFunder News

Disruptive Dialogue: Zero Waste Across the Food Value Chain?

This session will take place on Wednesday, September 14th from 11:45 AM - 12:45 PM

According to the FAO, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as is produced in sub-Saharan Africa, fruits, vegetables, and rots having the highest wastage.  Entrepreneurs are creating innovations to reduce waste across the food system supply chain. 

On this panel we explore the context and causes for food waste in the US and highlight innovations across the food value chain that enable more complete utilization of food production, from matching supply and demand to producing products from food waste.   

Christine Moseley

Christine Moseley Founder & CEO Full Harvest

Joanie Taylor

Joanie Taylor Director, Consumer Affairs & Community Relations Schnuck Markets, Inc

Dan Morash

Dan Morash Founder California Safe Soil

Stephanie Potter

Stephanie Potter VP, Sustainable Business Development Rabobank North America Wholesale

Michael Dean

Michael Dean Co-founfer & Chief Investment Officer AgFunder

Special Content Session: University Showcase, Six Research Institutions Highlight Earliest Stage Innovations

This session will take place on Wednesday, September 14th from 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM

This year the Ag Innovation Showcase is launching a Special Content Session to showcase 10 very early stage innovations, coming out of universities and a private research institute. The early stage projects with commercial potential include innovations in: animal health and husbandry, precision ag and sensors for outdoor agriculture, precision controls for indoor agriculture, renewable bio-based industrial products, high-throughput phenotyping and other advanced technologies for plant breeding, and plant pathogen detection

Session Sponsors: Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Technology Acceleration Partners (TechAccel)

Featured Technologies: 

The Kauffman Foundation, among the largest private foundations in the United States, is a large private foundation created and endowed by Ewing Marion Kauffman (1916-1993), a successful pharmaceutical entrepreneur and philanthropist to foster a society of economically independent individuals engaged in their communities. Kauffman focuses on education and entrepreneurship as the avenues to achieving their vision.

Tech Accel is a private capital development company that invests in, acquires, and accelerates early-stage discoveries and technologies in agriculture, animal health, and food ingredient sectors. Through collaborations with universities and research organizations, TechAccel conducts innovative research and development to ready technologies for commercialization by TechAccel's global industry partners.​

Michael Helmstetter

Michael Helmstetter Co-Founder, President & CEO TechAccel

Carlos Gutierrez

Carlos Gutierrez Chief Strategy Officer Larta Institute

Bob Morris

Bob Morris Principal AndMore Associates

Opening Keynote: Views from the Farm

This session will take place on Tuesday, September 13th from 9:00 - 9:40 AM

Farmers face great challenges: technical, environmental, and reputational. The need to produce greater quantities of food at greater efficiencies and with greater environmental benefit continues to rise. Fewer individuals engage in or understand the details of food production or farming.  However, consumers demand to “connect” with their food and are concerned about the food system as a whole. Fewer farmers must produce more under changing climates and as land ownership patterns continue to change.  

Speakers in series of short keynotes will provide “views from the farm,” with perspectives on challenges and opportunities from three very diverse sectors of agriculture:  Midwest commodity farming from investor- owned to professionally managed and investor owned acres, western specialty crop growers, and indoor farming of specialty crops.

The Rise of Indoor Agriculture:  A Futurists Point of View, Darryn Keiller

Indoor agriculture has reached parity with field economics for certain crops with the rise of greenhouse based production.  Like its outdoor cousin, indoor farming functions as both a producer of high volume fresh produce crops like lettuces and tomatoes as well as higher value herbs and microgreens, the shoots and first leaves of plants used in salads.  It encompasses everything from “undercover” production in more than 25000 acres of greenhouse production in Mexico to retooled shipping containers.  The same forces driving innovation in outdoor agriculture are driving agriculture indoors:  the need to produce more food on dwindling arable land and the need to meet rising consumer demand for higher quality foods, while reducing consumption of water, energy and labor inputs.

Technological advances in a broad sense has enabled the rise of indoor agriculture including innovations in plastics, sensors and control software and hardware, hydroponic methodologies, packing processes, magnetic rails, robots, and other automation.  We have seen leaps in crop density and use of controlled environment agriculture technologies to create greater output from fewer inputs.

This keynote will tease apart the distinctions among urban farming and vertical growing and will go beyond organic and salad to provide insights into the state of indoor agriculture writ large and the transferability of knowledge gains between indoor and outdoor and vice versa exploring where is it all going to from here?

Innovation Perspective from Specialty Crop Growers in the Western US, Hank Giclas

The agriculture industry faces many challenges. Never before has the consumer been at once so distant from those who produce food while at the same time so focused on food and the way it’s produced.  Climate change is adding additional climate risk and fresh water has become a limited and contested resource. Challenges that western USA growers of high value specialty crops face around which innovation is developing but still more is needed include: scarcity and unpredictability of field labor, food safety, food traceability from field to table, irrigation management, pest management and crop protection-especially management for invasive species, environmental impacts of agriculture (soil, water, and air).  Farmers are seeking technologies that help them make sustainable decisions that balance and consider environmental health, economic profitability, and social responsibility. 

The Western Growers Association, representing member growers in California, Arizona, Colorado who produce ~50% of the fresh produce consumed in the US, works to advance innovation in the fresh produce industry, enabling the production of more food in more efficient ways while strengthening the sustainability of farms and the agriculture industry. The WGA works directly to promote innovation that is important to the future of the fresh produce industry through its operation of the Center for Innovation and Technology an incubator for startups.

The Future of Midwest Commodity Farming, Matt Mayer

MPG Farms manages acres for land investors as well as the acres they own.  Such professional management for agriculture land investors is an increasing trend for US farmland.  Matt Mayer will explore where he views what the future of US Midwest farming will look like in light of this land management trend as well as how consumer demands are continuing to drive changes at the farm and along the food system.  

Hank Giclas

Hank Giclas Senior VP President Science & Technology, Strategic Planning Western Growers

Darryn Keiller

Darryn Keiller Chairman Autogrow Systems Ltd

Matthew Mayer

Matthew Mayer Operator & General Manager MPG Farms, LLC

Spotlight: The View from the Farm

This session will take place on Monday, September 12th from 4:00 PM - 4:15 PM

From global warming to animal care to the never ending fracas over GMOs, farmers are the villains in a morality play where virtue goes to those who bite the hand that feeds them.  It's not much fun to be a conventional farmer these days.   Meanwhile, innovations that will make us even more productive and yes, more "industrial" are attracting venture capital to agriculture for the first time in my 40 year long career.  As our customers demand ever more restrictive practices and ban GMOs from their products in order to secure a transient marketing advantage, one wonders which new products will find a foothold in a market that rewards nostalgia.  The major food firms have thrown conventional farmers over the side of the sustainability boat without a qualm.  One wonders how they will react to new technology.  

Blake Hurst

Blake Hurst President Missouri Farm Bureau

Spotlight: The View from the University

This session will take place on Wednesday, September 14th from 11:30 AM - 11:45 AM

Bringing diverse stakeholders together to solve complex agriculture problems

Fresh water is a fixed asset with competing demands among agriculture, urban, and environmental sectors. With California’s fifth year of drought, aquifer depletion in the midwest, and agriculture’s impact on water quality rising concerns across the country suggest a case for new advances in irrigation technology and nutrient management. Dr. Lewis will share insights from UC Davis and its contributions to the development of precision irrigation that illustrate the role of major universities to bring together diverse stakeholders to solve complex problems in food production and agriculture.

Josette  Lewis

Josette Lewis Associate Director World Food Center at UC Davis

Spotlight: The View from the Investor

This session will take place on Tuesday, September 13th from 11:45 AM - 12:00 PM

Both consumers and farmers are key stakeholders for adoption of innovation in agriculture, and therefore of key interest to investors.  Consumers are demanding a greater connection with their food and where it comes from, driving disruptions in supply chains and innovations in transparency and traceability.  How are consumers going to affect the farm and the farmer in the future? How will this impact adoption of new innovation? For various reasons, both Big Food and Big Ag are undergoing significant consolidation and in many cases are within the edges of disruption. How does this impact innovation in agriculture? 

Sanjeev Krishnan

Sanjeev Krishnan Managing Director Seed2Growth Ventures

Spotlight: The View from the Innovator

This session will take place on Tuesday, September 13th from 10:10 AM - 10:25 AM.

Big data is not just for precision agriculture.  Big phenotype and genotype data combined with cloud-based analytics and extensive biological expertise can also enable faster, more efficient crop improvement without the big infrastructure costs.  Benson Hill is championing a collaborative approach to this paradigm shift of “cloud biology” through a platform called CropOS™ that can expand not just what kind of ag innovation is possible but also who is empowered to innovate.  CropOS is a machine-learning engine that calibrates and improves with each field experiment and data set, providing crop developers with enhanced decision support through a user-friendly interface.  The result is a powerful system that can enable companies of all sizes and crop interests to innovate faster and more efficiently, opening a new era of opportunity to feed, clothe, and fuel the world’s population in the face of limited natural resources and a changing climate.

Matthew B.  Crisp

Matthew B. Crisp President & CEO Benson Hill Biosystems

Special Content Session: Venture Philanthropy in Agtech – A Design Lab Approach

This session will take place on Tuesday, September 13th from 2:45 - 4:45 PM. This session is by invitation only. 

The Kauffman Foundation is hosting a small cohort for a design session exploring the roles of philanthropy in AgTech.  This two-hour session will bring stakeholders together to ideate possibilities for gaps where philanthropy can have an impact in the development and furtherance of AgTech in the US. Participants include representatives from industry, small business, academia, capital providers and the farming community. 

Special Content Session: Israel-St. Louis, Connecting Two Leading Ag Innovation Ecosystems

This session will take place on Wedneday September 14th from 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM.

Israel is well known as Startup Nation with its world leading density of high growth startups. What may be less well known is that Israel is also a global powerhouse in agriculture innovation. A distinguished panel of key players from Israel’s Ag Innovation ecosystem and leadership of exciting Israeli Agritech companies will provide key insights into the composition and key success factors of Israel’s agriculture innovation ecosystem. The discussion will also overview St. Louis’s initiative to attract innovation from across the globe to St. Louis and the reasons why four exciting Israeli Agritech companies chose to set-up US HQ presence in St. Louis in the last 18 months.

Vijay Chauhan

Vijay Chauhan Ventures & Partnerships Lead GlobalSTL

Sharon  Berberich

Sharon Berberich Head of U.S. Operations Kaiima Bio-Agritech, Ltd

Roy Borochov

Roy Borochov President Forrest Innovations, USA

Paul  Chomet

Paul Chomet U.S. Office Lead & Strategic Advisor NRGene

Eran Kosover

Eran Kosover EVP & General Manager Crop Protection Evogene

Jack Levy

Jack Levy Co-founder & Partner ICV

Steve Rhodes

Steve Rhodes CEO Trendlines Group

Ryan  Rakestraw

Ryan Rakestraw Venture Principal Monsanto Growth Ventures

Special Content Session: From Laboratory to Farm, Transforming a Biological Company from R&D to Commercialization

This session will take place on Tuesday, September 13th from 2:45 - 3:45 PM.

The use of microbial organisms to promote crop health, to increase yields or to resist disease and insects is growing at a rapid rate.  Agricultural micro-organisms may complement (and sometimes replace) traditional fertilizers and chemicals, thus lowering the environmental footprint of agriculture.  But the plant biome is vast and a company seeking to develop biological products confronts a range of critical decisions as it moves to a commercial product.

A panel consisting of Jerry Duff, President-Owner of AgriThority, Tom Laurita, CEO of NewLeaf Symbiotics and John Hamer, Investment Director of Monsanto Growth Ventures, and moderated by Brandon Neuschafer, partner at Bryan Cave, will discuss various aspects of the commercial development of a hypothetical biological product.  This discussion will explore the decisions a hypothetical start-up company faces as it moves from research to revenue, including:

  • wide versus deep
  • R&D/optimization versus revenue generation
  • formulation considerations
  • integration with chemical or other solutions
  • target crops (row crops versus specialty crops)
  • manufacture in-house or with third party.

Brandon Neuschafer

Brandon Neuschafer Partner Bryan Cave

Tom Laurita

Tom Laurita CEO NewLeaf Symbiotics

Jerry Duff

Jerry Duff President AgriThority

John Hamer

John Hamer Investment Director Monsanto Growth Ventures

Brendan Johnson

Brendan Johnson Partner Bryan Cave

Special Content Session : Global Scale, Changing the Paradigm of AgTech Investing

This session will take place on Wednesday, September 14th from 7:30 - 9:00 AM.

The Yield Lab, the world’s first agriculture technology business accelerator located out of St. Louis has recently expanded into Ireland.  Join us as we discuss the value of sourcing technologies at a global scale.  Irish and Argentinian representatives will examine the AgTech eco-system in their respective regions and the opportunities for international collaboration.  2016 Yield Lab portfolio companies will also be available to meet and answer questions.

Jessica Benson

Jessica Benson VP, New Forms of Investment IDA Ireland

Marcelo McGrech

Marcelo McGrech Head of Agribusiness Banco Galicia

Thad Simons

Thad Simons Co-Founder & Managing Director The Yield Lab

Closing Keynote: From Insight to Impact, Translating Science and Technology into Developing World Agriculture at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

This session will take place on Wednesday, September 14th from 12:45 PM - 1:15 PM

Vipula Shukla

Vipula Shukla Sr. Program Officer, Discovery Research Agricultural Development The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation