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New AgTech Accelerator Takes Root in RTP with $11.5M Investment

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

AgTech Accelerator, a new program intended to foster entrepreneurialism in agriculture, has launched in Research Triangle Park, NC, boosted by $11.5 million in support from heavyweights in the agriculture and investment communities, and partnerships with leading academic centers throughout the country.

Alexandria Venture Investments, the investment arm of Alexandria Real Estate Equities (NYSE: ARE), is the lead investor in the new accelerator. Other investors include Bayer, Syngenta Ventures, Arch Venture Partners, Flagship Ventures, Harris & Harris Group (NASDAQ: TINY), Hatteras Venture Partners, Mountain Group Capital, and Pappas Capital.

Leading the new accelerator is CEO John Dombrosky, a Syngenta (NYSE: SYT) veteran who held several management positions for the Swiss agribusiness giant involving licensing, and mergers and acquisitions. In a statement, Dombrosky says that global agribusiness companies have difficulty doing all of the R&D work in-house, and that agricultural innovation requires the support of a different business model. “Our unique model fosters a ‘new entrepreneurialism in agriculture,’ enabling startups to fill a wide variety of important agtech innovation gaps,” Dombrosky said in a written statement.

AgTech Accelerator organizers say it will function on the model of Accelerator Corp., a venture capital-backed firm that invests in and supports life sciences startups and is now a partner to the new agtech effort. Accelerator launched in Seattle in 2003 and expanded to New York in 2014. AgTech Accelerator, organizers say, will identify and finance promising agriculture companies. Those companies will also have access to research support from nearby Duke University, NC State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Other university collaborators include Pennsylvania State University; Purdue University; University of California, Davis; and Washington State University.

AgTech Accelerator organizers say that it will use the capital infusion to grow businesses focused on a wide range of technologies targeting all segments of the farm-to-market industry. Companies growing in the accelerator will have the opportunity for follow-on investment capital, from AgTech Accelerator’s investment syndicate.

The accelerator announcement follows Alexandria’s announcement last year of plans to develop a swath of property in RTP into a new life sciences cluster, with a particular emphasis on agriculture. Startups in the accelerator will have access to the site’s new office, lab, and greenhouse space, Alexandria CEO Joel Marcus said in a written statement.