Why I mentor promising agtech startups (and you should too)

The future of agriculture depends on innovation. That’s why I get excited every time Cultivator launches a new cohort of companies. This week I’ll be in Regina for AGTECH ACCELERATOR‘s Finale Week and the first-ever Global Agtech Summit.

AGTECH ACCELERATOR is a venture-backed program designed to help top early-stage agtech companies scale globally. Together in partnership, Cultivator powered by Conexus, Economic Development Regina and Emmertech (Canada’s largest agtech venture capital fund) are solidifying the prairies as a global hub for agtech investment, commercialization, and job creation.

There are 16 companies in the second cohort from across Canada, 5 companies from the UK and one from Australia. 

I serve on the advisory council for the program bringing the producer perspective to light. It’s something these companies really need as many have head offices in Toronto and Vancouver and may have never set foot on a farm before. 

During their two weeks of in-person programming in Regina, they drink from the firehose, as they say, receiving content, advice, feedback on their ideas, attending VIP dinners and fireside chats. I really enjoy the speed mentoring sessions where I get to meet with the founders one-on-one. It’s a chance for them to pick my brain and for me to see the new ag tech products coming down the pike. 

Not all of these companies will make it, but I do believe companies selected to participate in Cultivator’s AGTECH ACCELERATOR program have the best chance of success. How exciting to have the epi-center of ag tech right here in Saskatchewan.

You can check out all 16 companies here

One of the biggest challenges facing these startup founders is access to capital. All of the Canadian companies receive a $100,000 equity investment from Emmertech. But, with the markets shifting and coming back down to reality, it’s harder than it used to be for them to find additional investors. While they used to have their pick from several VCs wanting to invest, these days they are struggling to survive with the money they have in the bank. They don’t have a long runway, which is why they need to fix their mistakes early and not waste time and money on solutions that will never actually work on a farm. 

This is why it is so crucial that they connect with producers and end users early on in their development. My good friend, Kim McConnell, and I discussed some of these points during our recent fireside chat with the founders.

 If you are a farmer who is interested, please reach out and join the Million Acres Program. This program, part of Cultivator, is designed to ensure producers are at the core of the newest ag tech innovations.

Your advice and feedback is invaluable to these founders. In particular, they are looking to connect with producers who farm between 5,000 – 10,000 acres. Don’t worry, the startups aren’t looking for you to invest, but they are seeking your opinion so they can make their products better. You can contact Ami and Bre – tell them I sent you.

If you’d like to see these companies in action, they will be showcasing their products at the  Global Agtech Summit at Canada’s Farm Show on June 21st. Come out and hear their pitch. I guarantee you’ll be impressed, learn something new and be inspired by these gritty founders who are trying to help the agriculture industry evolve. 

Over the next few months, my business partner Evan Shout and I will be taking an in-depth look at some of these companies – why we like (or dislike) their products and how we think they can improve. In the meantime, you can check out my earlier post about why it’s important for startups to consider the financial concerns of farmers.