MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Start with a network of progressive farmers, add venture capital from Innova Memphis with the support of several Farm Credit banks and support from the forward-thinking Tennessee Department of Agriculture, coupled with the unparalleled outreach of Farm Journal Media, and you get the AgLaunch farm-centric innovation model that is reinventing the way agricultural startups are created and grown. Next week this partnership will be showcased on a national stage at Farm Journal’s AgTech Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana on December 3-5.

AgLaunch’s interactive exhibits at the show will include the AgLaunch Startup Station, the Emerging Technologies Aisle, and will feature the Innova $100,000 Row Crop Challenge, as well as demonstrations from more than a dozen startup companies with innovations related to automation, robotics, soil analysis, input efficiency, new equipment, and farm management tools. These startups have received support from AgLaunch through various programs including the nationally-recognized AgLaunch365 accelerator and field trials through the AgLaunch farmer network. AgLaunch’s approach is yielding successful startup companies that are focused on the real needs of farmers.

As part of the Innova Challenge, four new agtech startups, selected from a national pool of applicants, are competing for a chance to win a $100,000 venture capital investment from Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV, a USDA certified Rural Business Investment Company whose investors are eight Farm Credit banks. Teams will pitch their company in front of an expert panel of farmers who will determine which team receives the investment.

Finalists for the Innova $100,000 Row Crop Challenge powered by AgLaunch are:

  • Kopper Kutter: Kopper Kutter, LLC offers ARRO®(Alternator Rotary Rowcrop Option) conversion kits for cornheads so that they can reliably harvest sorghum, sunflowers, and many other crops.
  • Rogo (formerly AgNext): The SmartCore by Rogo (formerly AgNext) uses a fully-autonomous robot that collects and packages soil samples with complete depth-, pattern- and location-consistency to give farmers more accurate soil data so they can make more profitable fertilizer decisions.
  • SioTeX: SioTeX is an eco-friendly specialty chemical manufacturer that makes a pure biogenic amorphous silica from rice hulls. Agricultural customers use the silica as a high-quality soil amendment to protect plants from mites, fungus, and stress and to increase crop yields.
  • Smart Farm Systems: Smart Farm Systems provides farmers with a precision irrigation monitoring and control system that allows them to apply just the right amount of water at just the right time on a field-by-field basis, conserving resources, improving crop yields and profitability.

“Next week we will be showcasing the successes we are seeing with our farmer network in Tennessee and the surrounding Delta region to a national audience in hopes of recruiting more farmers, increasing investment, and attracting new startups to the AgLaunch model,” said Pete Nelson, President and Executive Director of AgLaunch. “By addressing the needs of farmers and creating a pathway for them to participate in business deals with these companies, we are changing the way that agricultural startups are creating, growing, and building new opportunities for our communities.”

In addition to the four finalists competing in the Innova $100,000 Row Crop Challenge, AgLaunch will be showcasing more than a dozen companies over the course of the expo at the AgLaunch Startup Station (Booth #208) and in the Emerging Technology Aisle including existing cohort companies: Cattlog, Newton RFIDShepherdSoil Nerd, and alumni companies EarthsensePersistence Data MiningMicrobiometer, and Rantizo.  These companies are being directly supported through on-farm trials with farmers supported through Tennessee Department of Agriculture, investment from Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV, and accelerator support as part of the AgLaunch365 program designed with farmers at the center of the work.

AgLaunch and its teams are supported by the following sponsors and partners: Innova Memphis, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Archer Malmo, CoBank, Farm Credit Services of AmericaFarm Credit Mid-America, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, Baker Donelson, StartCo, Agricenter International, Ritter Agribusiness, Mid-South Family Farms, Growing Acres, and AgVentures Alliance.

About AgLaunch Initiative
AgLaunch is revolutionizing the way that innovations in agriculture and food are brought to market by bridging the present and future to grow a more diverse and sustainable farm economy and provide healthy food for all. AgLaunch leverages its distributed network of farm incubators, entrepreneurial farmers, aligned capital partners, research consortia, technical consulting, and best-in-class accelerator programming to effectively challenge the status quo and thoughtfully create value for farmers and the communities they serve. The AgLaunch vision is a transformed regional agriculture and food economy centered around farmers, innovation, and prosperity.

NEWS RELEASE: AgLaunch365 Welcomes Fourth Cohort to Farm-Centric Model Programming

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (October 19, 2018) — Four new agtech startups entered AgLaunch365 Phase I programming last week in Memphis. AgLaunch365 integrates startups with farmers in the AgLaunch Farmer Network to create and implement sophisticated field trial protocols and prepare for funding by aligned capital sources.

As part of AgLaunch365 Phase I, teams receive intensive business development support and customer discovery assistance while also having access to leading accelerator programming, the AgLaunch Farmer Network, the Cultivator Mentor Network, AgLaunch capital partners Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV and to AgLaunch’s partnership with Farm Journal Media, among a range of other services.

This 6-week program, delivered through remote programming and in-person sessions held in Memphis, will culminate at the Farm Journal AgTech Expo in Indianapolis December 3-5, 2018.

“This group of teams is addressing key areas with disruptive innovations around soil health, farm efficiency, traceability, and ways of connecting buyers and sellers that save time and money,” said Pete Nelson, President and Executive Director of AgLaunch Initiative. “These teams will complement our current portfolio and add value for our farmers who are trying to create the next generation of farm operations in Tennessee and the surrounding region.”

Phase I teams are:

  • Cattlog empowers ranchers to buy and sell cattle anytime, anywhere with an online marketplace backed by 3rd party escrow and arbitration.
  • Newton RFID is an animal identification and mobile records management company which provides vital records about a horse, from an injected microchip.
  • Shepherd lets growers manage their farm labor, tasks, and pay workers quickly and securely in order to help them be more productive and stay a step ahead of their farm work.
  • Soil Nerd is a digital agronomist that helps farmers raise crop quality and reduce in-season risk through soil health management.

“The industry of agriculture has plenty of room to grow when it comes to technology, but it isn’t always easy to get started when you have a good, innovative agtech idea,” Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said. “The resources that these four startups now have access to will be invaluable as they continue working to provide opportunities and innovations to other farmers in our region.”

AgLaunch365 teams are eligible for investment from a key AgLaunch partner, Innova and its USDA-certified Rural Business Investment Company fund, a $31 million fund backed by eight Farm Credit banks.

AgLaunch365 consists of three phases of support that align with a typical row crop growing season. Phase I teams develop business models and gain access to the Cultivator Mentor Network. Phase II participants refine their product or technology to be “field ready” for on-farm trials with AgLaunch365’s Farmer Network beginning in the spring. Phase III teams work directly with growers in the region to test their innovation in the field during the growing seasons.

Applications to participate in Phase II can be found here: for Phase II is November 15, 2018.


About AgLaunch Initiative

AgLaunch is revolutionizing the way that innovations in agriculture and food are brought to market by bridging the present and future to grow a more diverse and sustainable farm economy and provide healthy food for all. AgLaunch leverages its distributed network of farm incubators, entrepreneurial farmers, aligned capital partners, research consortia, technical consulting, and best-in-class accelerator programming to effectively challenge the status quo and thoughtfully create value for farmers and the communities they serve. The AgLaunch vision is a transformed regional agriculture and food economy centered around farmers, innovation, and prosperity.

AgLaunch October 2018 Newsletter

Dr. Bruce Kirksey shares the work in specialty crops at the Agricenter International Field Day.



The last few months have proven to be some of the most important in AgLaunch’s history. We consider summer the season of growth and maturity, and the same can be said of our own organization. We’ve seen our companies finalize and complete nearly 20 field trial projects with members of the Farmer Network, we’ve seen multiple partners collaborate on meaningful and innovative grant proposals, and, most signigicantly, we’ve become our own standalone organization. We owe much gratitude to Memphis Bioworks for being the incubator AgLaunch needed to get off the ground. Thanks to their support, we’ve grown to the point of being able to sustain our own operations. While we may no longer be a program of Memphis Bioworks, we will always be partners in the important work of transforming the food and agriculture economy.

Fall is shaping up to be just as exciting! We are welcoming our next cohort of cutting-edge agtech companies to Memphis to participate in AgLaunch365 and are participating and presenting at some significant industry events, securing our role as a thought leader in this area. Additionally, you can hear me talk about AgLaunch with Tim Hammerich on his podcast Future of Agriculture.

We’re returning to the Farm Journal AgTech Expo with an expanded role and even greater presence through the Emerging Technologies Aisle and the Innova $100,000 Row Crop Challenge. I hope you consider attending this world-class event.

As always, we would not be here without support from you.


Pete Nelson

In the News

Read what others are saying about us, our teams, and our partners!

PORTFOLIO COMPANY: It’s the Little Things in Life that Count, July 12, 2018

PORTFOLIO COMPANY: GroGuru Conducts First Row Crop Field Trials on Its Precision Irrigation Monitoring Technology with AgLaunch Farm Network, August 16, 2018

AGLAUNCH: Future of Agriculture, Episode 117: Bridging the Gap Between AgTech Entrepreneurs and Farmers with Pete Nelson, September 5, 2018

PARTNER: The Seam Eyes Growth With New Personnel, Technologies, September 8, 2018

PARTNER: Growers Overcomes Challenge of Big Data in Agriculture, Raises $5M to Expand, September 12, 2018

PORTFOLIO COMPANY: Future of Agriculture, Episode 118: Autonomous, Swarm-Enabled Tractors with Zack James of Rabbit Tractors, September 12, 2018

PARTNER: Local fund invests $4M in farming startups, has $27M left in seed money, September 17, 2018

PARTNER: Organic crops boosted by Memphis tech star, September 18, 2018

PARTNER: Tractor Zoom, a Farm Equipment Auction Marketplace, Completes $1 Million Seed Round, September 21, 2018

PORTFOLIO COMPANY: Drone Targets Weeds With Precision, September 24, 2018

PORTFOLIO COMPANY: CRANBERRY COUNTRY: The eye on cranberry bogs, October 3, 2018

PARTNER: Agricenter approaching 40th anniversary, planning for future, October 8, 2018

PORTFOLIO COMPANY: New entity providing X-ray vision for growers, October 9, 2018


Upcoming Events

October 10, 2018
Tennessee Agriculture Leadership Forum
Murfreesboro, TN

October 16, 2018
World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit
London, England

November 13-14, 2018
Agri Investor Chicago Forum 2018
Chicago, IL

November 15, 2018
Life Science Tennessee Conference
Nashville, TN

December 3-5, 2018
Farm Journal AgTech Expo
Indianapolis, IN


SEPTEMBER 20, 2018

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (September 20, 2018) – AgLaunch Initiative, a farm-centric agricultural innovation organization, announced today the Innova $100,000 Row Crop Challenge powered by AgLaunch as part of their expanded partnership with Farm Journal Media to be held at the 2018 Farm Journal AgTech Expo, December 3-5, in Indianapolis. This event is the leading opportunity to connect AgTech startups with row crop farmers.

“The ultimate goal of AgLaunch’s involvement in the Farm Journal AgTech Expo is to demonstrate our farm-centric innovation model to assist new AgTech startups and the farmers we serve,” said Pete Nelson, President & Executive Director of AgLaunch Initiative. “We bring together emerging technology companies that support farming operations with the farmers and investors who share the goal of creating solutions for farmers.”

The Innova $100,000 Row Crop Challenge powered by AgLaunch will be held December 4thon the AgTech Expo Demo Stage and is open to all early stage AgTech startups focused on new and novel solutions to problems in row crop agriculture or to help farmers take advantage of new opportunities. Eligible applicants will vie for up to $100,000 in funding from Innova’s Ag Innovation Fund IV, a $31 million USDA-licensed Rural Business Investment Company backed by 8 Farm Credit Banks, as well as access to the AgLaunch Farmer Network and visibility through the Farm Journal Media family of multi-media platforms.

“At Innova we strive to enable high potential, early-stage startups that serve the agriculture community, to grow into significant economic contributors,” said Dean Didato, partner of Innova. “By providing seed capital and experienced mentorship, we help AgTech startups succeed and deliver the most value to farmers.”

The Challenge will be judged by a panel of farmers and a representative of Innova. Four finalists will be chosen to participate in the Challenge during the Expo. Applications for the competition, judging criteria, and investment eligibility can be found here. Applications are due by October 15th. Selected teams will be announced November 15th.

In addition to the Challenge, AgLaunch will once again coordinate Startup Station, a demonstration area for new robotics and other innovations. This year’s Expo will also feature an Emerging Technologies Aisle, which is focused on companies that have completed farm-scale pilots and are ready to start expanding their footprint with farmers.

To learn more about the Innova Ag Innovation $100,000 Challenge, availability within the Emerging Technologies Aisle, or other ways you can join AgLaunch in Indianapolis on December 3-5, please contact Rebecca Kaufman at


About AgLaunch Initiative 
AgLaunch is revolutionizing the way that innovations in agriculture and food are brought to market by bridging the present and future to grow a more diverse and sustainable farm economy and provide healthy food for all. AgLaunch leverages its distributed network of farm incubators, entrepreneurial farmers, aligned capital partners, research consortia, technical consulting, and best-in-class accelerator programming to effectively challenge the status quo and thoughtfully create value for farmers and the communities they serve. The AgLaunch vision is a transformed regional agriculture and food economy centered around farmers, innovation, and prosperity.

About Innova
Innova is an early-stage venture capital firm that was founded in 2007 by Memphis Bioworks Foundation. The firm focusejs on starting and funding high-growth companies in the Medical, Technology and AgTech fields that match both Innova’s expertise, as well as the region’s industry strengths. Innova has invested in over 100 companies and has been recognized by Crunchbase, Forbes, and SSTI in their rankings of most active investors. Innova provides the synergy of experienced management, market expertise and venture capital to accelerate the development of new products and services into thriving businesses. Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV is a $31 million fund was formed as a licensed USDA Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC) with 8 Farm Credit banks participating as Limited Partners.

About Farm Journal Media
Farm Journal Media is the nation’s leading business information and media company serving the agricultural market. Started 141 years ago with the preeminent Farm Journal magazine, the company serves the row crop, livestock, produce and retail sectors through branded websites, eNewsletters and phone apps; business magazines; events; nationally broadcasted television and radio programs; a robust mobile text marketing business; and an array of data-driven paid information products. Farm Journal Media also is the majority shareholder of the online equipment marketplace Machinery Pete LLC. In 2010, the Company established the non-profit, public charity Farm Journal Foundation, which is dedicated to sustaining agriculture’s ability to meet the vital needs of a growing population through education and empowerment.

AgLaunch July 2018 Newsletter

AgLaunch Notes
July 12, 2018

Recruitment for the next cohort of AgLaunch365 has begun! 

We’re looking for the next generation of agricultural innovation companies to join Phase I of our flagship program – AgLaunch365. Ideal applicants are addressing real world problems specifically targeting row crop production. Example problems include spray drift, herbicide resistant weeds, nitrogen and water management, automation and labor, robotics, precision planting, grain bin management and logistics. We are open to discussing other sectors and approaches so please let us know if you are interested and want to clarify if you would be considered.  AgLaunch365 participants will have access to investment capital, a fantastic network of farmers, and a proven process to grow really exciting companies in the agricultural innovation sector.  The application can be found HERE.

Sneed Brothers Farm.

Ray Sneed of Sneed Brothers Farm is a member of the AgLaunch Farmer Network a regional network trialing over a dozen new technologies this summer in row crops, vegetables, and livestock













A few quick updates and then we’re back to farm visits, field trials and AgLaunch365 planning.

June saw us cover hundreds of miles to meet with Farmer Network members and see 2018 field trials in action. One thing’s for sure, the AgLaunch Farmer Network is a group of some of the most innovative, thoughtful, and hard working farmers. We’re glad to partner with them.

We’re underway with our first Knoxville Bootcamp, working with several startups from across Tennessee. Special thanks to UTIA, UT Research Foundation, Knoxville Entrepeneur Center, LaunchTN, and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for their partnership in the program.

AgLaunch is planning two upcoming Field Days, please consider joining us for a morning of ag innovation, novel conservation systems, and new markets for crops. The first will be on August 2 at Growing Acres Farm in Savannah, TN. The second will be on August 9 at Agricenter International in Memphis, TN.

Kind regards,

AgLaunch’s Schuyler Dalton moderates a panel of AgLaunch alumni startups at the Knoxville Bootcamp this week. Participating entrepreneurs were: Jairo Trad, Kilimo; Chinmay Soman, EarthSense; Zack James, Rabbit Tractors.

RSVP for upcoming field days on August 2 and August 9, 2018

Growing Acres Field Day

Agricenter Field Day

Ray Tyler from Rose Creek Farm shows us the control center for his new automatic roll-up sides & climate control system designed for small scale vegetable production.


AgLaunch in the News

Stay up to date with these and many more updates by following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

AgLaunch365 Call for Applications

Applications Open Until 08/13 for AgTech Startups to Participate in First Phase of AgLaunch365

Farm-Centric Program Assists in Field Trials & Attracting Investment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (July 17, 2018) – AgLaunch Initiative is excited to announce applications are open for Phase I of its nationally recognized commercialization approach – AgLaunch365.  The program combines its leading accelerator approach with its network of innovative farmers in a flexible wrap-around model that revolves around the agricultural production cycle.  Teams that are accepted into AgLaunch365 are eligible to receive pre-seed investment from Innova Ag Innovation Fund, a $31 million Rural Business Investment Company whose limited partners are eight farm credit banks.

AgLaunch365 is revolutionizing the way agricultural innovation is brought to market,” says Matt Bell, Managing Director, Cultivian Sandbox Ventures. “AgLaunch365 accommodates the specific needs and timing of those working in the agricultural industry in a unique farm-centric model that is unparalleled in the industry,” he said.

Areas of interest include:

  • Precision Farming (management of inputs, soil, water & crop tech)
  • Farming Technology (new equipment, robotics & automation, harvest & storage)
  • Supply chain & Logistics (processing/productivity tools, diagnostics, & food safety)

Here are a few of the tools that AgLaunch365 participants will have access to:

  • Customized programming focused on agriculture from AgLaunch and lean method approach to scale growth and operations from Start Co.
  • Support from a national network of agricultural-focused mentors and service providers including Archer Malmo and Baker Donelson
  • Pre-seed investment and access to our network of ag & food VCs
  • Commercial scale field trials supported by a cost-share program 
  • Direct access to Farm Journal Media as an exclusive media channel partner, including behind-the-scenes access to events like AgTech Expo

“We are excited to participate in AgLaunch365 as the leading way to connect our farming operation with developers of new technologies in a way that is beneficial to both,” said Scott Fullen, President, Mid-South Family Farms.” “AgLaunch365 is bringing the right people – from investors, entrepreneurs, and those within the ag industry – to a region that supports innovation and agriculture,” he said.

AgLaunch365 operates in three phases (business model, field plan, and implementation) over a 1 year period, allowing startups to participate in the phase or phases that are relevant to each company’s stage of growth.   Entrepreneurs who participate in Phase I will have dedicated blocks of time for programming in Memphis, Tennessee, but also have flexibility to travel or be in the field to conduct normal business and assignments in-between programming.

Applications for Phase I are due by 5 p.m. CT on Monday, August 13, 2018. Phase I starts the first week of October 2018.

For more information on AgLaunch365 and access to the application go to:


About AgLaunch™ 

AgLaunch ( supports agtech startups, builds collaborative farmer networks and addresses gaps in the regional food and ag innovation ecosystem. AgLaunch is a partnership with Tennessee Department of Agriculture and a network of farmers interested in helping create new opportunities.

AgLaunch May 2018 Newsletter

AgLaunch Notes

Vol. 5, No. 2                                                                  May 29, 2018


I hope the summer finds you well! The spring brought many opportunities for AgLaunch and our teams. We were proud to host Steve Case, founder of AOL, and his Rise of the Rest tour at the Agricenter as part of their larger roadtrip stop in Memphis. Our teams were able to showcase their technology, and we were able to share our vision for the food and agriculture sector in the region. Memphis was well represented and many positive things happening in the city were recognized.

As summer is upon us, we’re settling into the keystone offering of our programming: Field Trials. In this issue, we want to profile a few of the technologies and farms working to ground-truth agtech innovations right here in the Mid-South Delta region. We are proud of the diverse group of companies and farms participating this year. It is indeed the largest group of trials we’ve ever executed.

Startups are working directly with farmers to test their technologies and collect meaningful data. New this year is a cost-share pilot project with Tennessee Department of Agriculture for Tennessee farmers trialing AgLaunch companies’ technology. Additionally, AgLaunch was awarded a $125,000 grant from Tennessee’s Agriculture Enterprise Fund to create model farms for innovation and research.

Additionally, this summer, we’re offering a first-time AgLaunch bootcamp in partnership with Knoxville Entrepreneur Center to serve Tennessee agtech teams. This week-long agtech bootcamp being held on the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture campus in Knoxville from July 9-13, 2018 allows teams accepted into the program best-in-class agricultural entrepreneurship programming and have access to investors, mentors, and farmers. Interested companies should apply here by June 8, 2018.

We continue to look forward to the fall and beginning a new round of Phase I programming, evaluating our field trials, and working to promote the food and ag sector in the Mid-South. Your continued support is so important for our work, and we value your partnerships. As always, if there’s something we can do for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Kind Regards,


Summer Field Trial Highlights

As our farmers and agtech companies deploy their technologies across farms in the Mid-South, we wanted to highlight some of the innovation happening and being tested in the region.


Matthew Rooda, SwineTech Founder and CEO, grew up in a family of pork producers and quickly learned the value of a good work ethic. In 2013, Rooda was working as an assistant farm manager and farrowing manager on a farrow to finish farm in Waterloo, Iowa. It was here that Rooda battled the historic problem of piglet crushing with no avail. The team had implemented all of the necessary caregiving procedures, but nothing seemed to solve the problem. Swinetech uses advanced algorithms and acoustic engineering to detect when a piglet is in distress by analyzing its squeals. In the moment of a crushing event, the SmartGuard® monitor communicates to the SmartGuard® wearable to tell the sow to stand up.

Working with Tosh Farms, based in Henry County, Tennessee, SwineTech will run a major trial focused on reducing infant mortality in swine operations. Tosh Farms will use 23 of SwineTech’s SmartGuard patches on more than 1,000 sows this summer in AgLaunch’s largest 2018 trial.


Kilimo provides a decision support tool for irrigation management in extensive agriculture. Using satellite, climate, and on-site data, it feeds their proprietary Big Data engine to make the best possible irrigation prescription for each crop, improving yields up to 30% and water use efficiency up to 70%. Kilimo will be doing an irrigation management trial to determine if Kilimo’s solution provides some ROI when compared to the farmers’ best management practices (BMP). The target will be improving the gross margin of the crop by using less water and increasing yields.

Kilimo will be completing multi-site trials on pivot irrigation at Growing Acres, Mid-South Family Farms, Sneed Brothers Farm, and Norwood Farms to demonstrate the ease of use and efficacy of this technology against traditional irrigation decision methodologies.

 EarthSense is a robotics and machine-learning startup that is currently providing its TerraSentia robots to seed breeders and crop scientists to help them create better crop varieties faster by getting more accurate trait data from field trials. TerraSentia is a revolutionary new ultracompact, autonomous, smart robot for managing critical agricultural challenges like herbicide resistant weeds. EarthSense products currently in development will help farmers directly – including robots designed for field scouting as well as robots that can perform tasks such as weed removal throughout the season.

EarthSense will be testing its robots in real-world field conditions this summer with Mid-South Family Farms and collecting multiple data sets throughout the growing season at Brannon Farms.

microBIOMETER® allows you to estimate the microbial biomass in your soil in 10 minutes for 10% of the cost of a lab test. Results are read and stored on your cellphone or tablet and in the cloud for access across all your devices. microBIOMETER® measures the amount of microbes less than 100 µm in size in a sample of soil or compost tea – these are the microbes that form the basis of the food web. It is well documented that microbial biomass is the best indicator of soil fertility: nutrition poor and challenged soils have very low microbial populations and that successful remediation results in an increase in the microbial population. The nutrition available to plants in a growing season is mineralized by the microbial population. microBIOMETER has shown that the microbial population of a compost sample reflects its nutritional level.

microBIOMETER will be conducting trials this summer related to the microbial biomass in field using certain fertilizers, conservation techniques, and cover crops. They will be working with Sneed Farms, D&J River Farm, Batey Farms, and Rose Creek Farm to measure the effects of different management practices on soil microbial content.

GroGuru develops an application for monitoring and analyzing soil data. This enables growers to efficiently utilize limited water resources to help manage costs by providing them with real time and historical soil moisture, salinity, and temperature data.GroGuru will provide and install soil sensors that work wirelessly even when buried deep under the soil. These sensors can measure moisture and salinity thereby providing guidance to the farmers about optimal irrigation times and frequency, resulting in yield maximization. GroGuru will run trials at Norwood Farms this summer.

WISRAN is an agtech company providing live farming with an action-based business and process intelligence and measuring time variations of farming activities. WISRAN is developing a software-as-a-service platform to increase agricultural operation efficiency, initially targeting improving worker productivity and agricultural machinery logistics. The company has also developed a tablet equipped with an accelerometer and a GPS to be placed in each piece of agricultural equipment to source telematics data.

WISRAN is conducting field trials with Yeargin Farms and Growing Acres to track efficiency and equipment logistics this summer and fall.


Rise of the Rest Bus Tour Cultivates Stronger Support for Job-Fueling Startup Businesses, May 8, 2018

Memphis One of 10 Cities Selected for FAA Drone Pilot Program, May 9, 2018

Billionaires: They Are Just Like Us!, May 10, 2018

Turn Old Malls Into Vegetable Hothouses? Memphis Set to be Heart of Food Innovation, May 11, 2018

AgTech Startups Highlighted in Nationwide Bus Tours, May 15, 2018

Davos on the Delta Puts Memphis At Center of Agriculture World, May 16, 2018

First Round of Farmer-Driven Innovation Trials Announced, May 21, 2018

Precision Ag Bytes 5/23, May 23, 2018


Ag Robot Speeds Data Collection and Analyzes Crops as They Grow, March 2018

Cross a John Deere with a Roomba, and You Get This Crop-Monitoring Robot, March 13, 2018

This Startup Just Raised $1.1 Million To Build Better Data Platforms For Farmers, March 19, 2018

Iowa City Drone Sprayer Company Gets Attention in Memphis, April 10, 2018

Rantizo: Precision Drone Spraying, April 11, 2018

Iowa Startup Power Rankings for April, April 30, 2018

Argentine Agtech Startup Kilimo Raises Expansion Capital, May 14, 2018

From L to R: Zack James, CEO and Founder of Rabbit Tractors, showcasing his quarter-scale model of his autonomous tractor to Steve Case as part of the Rise of the Rest tour stop in Memphis; EarthSense Founder and CEO Chinmay Soman and AgLaunch President Pete Nelson showing off the latest TerraSentia robot that will be participating in field trials this summer.

Stay up to date with these and many more updates by following us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!














NEWS: Applications Open for AgLaunch Bootcamp for Tennessee Agricultural Innovation Startups

Applications due June 8!

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (May 24, 2018) — Up to eight Tennessee agriculture entrepreneur teams will have the chance to participate in a week-long agri-tech bootcamp being held on the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture campus in Knoxville from July 9-13, 2018. The event is coordinated by Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) in partnership with AgLaunch, a statewide agricultural innovation program. Teams accepted into the program will experience best-in-class agricultural entrepreneurship programming and have access to investors, mentors, and farmers.

AgLaunch Bootcamp applicants must be located in Tennessee and can include:
• Small startup companies operating in the agricultural sector;
• Existing companies that are creating new innovations or product lines; and
• Student or faculty teams that are developing new innovations in agriculture.

AgLaunch Bootcamp applicants should be focused on addressing real problems in agriculture within the crop and livestock sectors. These include but are not limited to: automation and robotics, solutions to issues such as spray drift and herbicide-resistant weeds, financing approaches, water and nitrogen management, innovative livestock production technologies, food traceability and food safety, market access, and new equipment. AgLaunch and KEC will consider any new and novel idea in the agriculture and food value chain.

Teams in the program will have the opportunity to participate in AgLaunch365 programming during Fall 2018 and be considered for investment from Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV. The Innova Ag Fund is a $31 million venture fund backed by eight Farm Credit banks focused on agriculture innovation.

Tennessee-based entrepreneurs with an idea or an agtech startup who are interested in the intensive bootcamp can apply here. Applications are being accepted through 5 pm EST on June 8, 2018. Up to eight teams will be selected to participate.


About AgLaunch
AgLaunch attracts, creates, and grows agtech startups, facilitates the development of new agriculture and food value-chains, and builds collaborative farmer networks in the Mid-
South, with a commitment to intentional inclusion. AgLaunch was formed through a joint initiative between Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Memphis Biowork Foundation. AgLaunch365 is a farm-centric innovation platform for agriculture designed to calibrate support with the specific needs of agtech startups and the agricultural industry. AgLaunch365 is made possible through partnerships with Innova, Start Co., TN Farm Bureau, Farm Credit Mid-America, Farm Journal Media, Archer Malmo, and Baker Donelson.


About Knoxville Entrepreneurship Center
Knoxville Entrepreneur Center is a business accelerator located in Market Square that
serves as the front door for entrepreneurs in our region, and a resource for anyone looking
to start or grow a business here. By nurturing and supporting a culture of entrepreneurship,
we are fostering innovation, creativity and job growth within our community. KEC is a place for networking, education and teaching others what we’ve learned. We are a mentor-driven business accelerator, a shared workspace and a source of mediocre coffee. As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, KEC is funded through sponsorships, partnerships, grants and membership fees. In addition to support from the City of Knoxville and the State of Tennessee, KEC relies on the generous contributions of leading East Tennessee corporations, successful entrepreneurs and those who have a vested interest in the success of new businesses in our region.



NEWS: AgLaunch and Tennessee Department of Agriculture Announce First Round of Farmer-Driven Innovation Trials


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (May 22, 2018) —

AgLaunch and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture announce the first eight farmer-led projects connecting farmers with pre-commercial technology for field testing. These projects are part of the AgLaunch strategy to attract, start, and grow new agricultural startup companies to and in Tennessee by connecting them with local farmers, while simultaneously helping farmers access new technology and market opportunities. The program is supported by Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

“This is a significant step forward in the mission to test new ag technologies in the real world, right on the farm,” Agriculture Commissioner Jai Templeton said. “Given the tremendous response and interest from Tennessee farmers, we believe this first round of trials is just the beginning. This program is strengthening the state’s reputation as an ideal location to develop innovations in agriculture.”

This program is developed through the AgLaunch Farmer Network and the Model Farm program coordinated by AgLaunch. The AgLaunch Farmer Network is a group of farmers from across Tennessee who are testing new innovations and participating in new marketing approaches to highlight progressive work on their farms. The Model Farm program is made up of a select group of farms which serve as centralized hubs to demonstrate new innovations and technologies at Field Days and other events.

Field trial demonstrations are scattered throughout Tennessee focusing on at-risk and distressed counties as a way of attracting new innovation and technology into those areas.

“Tennessee farmers are leading the region in creating a network of progressive farmers to help startup companies de-risk their technologies, while addressing major problems in agriculture,” said Pete Nelson, President and Executive Director of AgLaunch.

The following field-trial projects are currently underway with the following farms and agtech companies:

  • Kilimo, which helps farmers make better irrigation decisions, is conducting a multi-site trial comparing pivot irrigation management between Kilimo’s solution and existing methods. Participating farms include Sneed Brothers Farm, Growing Acres, Norwood Farms, and D&J River Farms.
  • Rose Creek Farms is piloting several technologies to facilitate more sustainable and economic production of vegetables including tomatoes and leafy greens on their organic farm in McNairy County.
  • MicroBiometer has a quick and inexpensive way to test for microbial activity in soil. This summer’s trials will test the MicroBiometer system on cover crops and organic agriculture. Participating farms include Sneed Brothers Farm, D&J River Farms, Rose Creek Farms, Batey Farms, and Yeargin Farms.
  • Norwood Farms is working with GroGuru to field test a monitoring system for irrigation recommendations that has been scaled in vegetables and is expanding into row crops.
  • EarthSense is testing an under-canopy plant phenotyping robot in field conditions to begin developing additional crop scouting and production practice applications specifically targeting herbicide-resistant weeds. Participating farms include Mid-South Family Farms and Jonah Brannon/Brannon Farms.
  • Tosh Farms based in Henry County with farming operations throughout Tennessee and Kentucky is partnering with startup SwineTech to run a major trial focused on reducing infant mortality in swine operations.
  • Yeargin Farms is leading an effort with Growing Acres Farms to collect data for WISRAN, measuringtime variations for farm management practices.
  • The management of these trials will be facilitated by another startup, AgriSync, which simplifies communication between companies, technicians, and their farmer customers.

Participants in the Model Farm program will be hosting a series of Field Days and demonstration programs to showcase technologies and to share best marketing practices. These events are open to farmers, food companies, agribusiness professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, and industry stakeholders.

The first Field Day will be held on August 2, 2018, at Growing Acres Farm in Savannah, Tennessee from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. followed by lunch. If you would like more information, please email

The AgLaunch Farmer Network program is open to all farmers. Interested farmers apply online here and are reviewed by an independent panel of experts in agriculture. Candidates selected for the Farmer Network are proven leaders already driving change in their communities. The Farmer Network is intentionally focused on recruiting a group of farms with diversity in size, crops farmed, livestock raised, and farming techniques. Members of the Farmer Network are eligible to participate in field-scale trials with collaborating agricultural startups and participate in a cost share program to offset the costs.

More information about AgLaunch and its programming can be found at


About AgLaunch™ 

AgLaunch attracts, creates, and grows agtech startups, facilitates the development of new agriculture and food value-chains, and builds collaborative farmer networks in the Mid-South, with a commitment to intentional inclusion.AgLaunch was formed through a joint initiative between Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Memphis Bioworks Foundation. AgLaunch365 is a farm-centric innovation platform for agriculture designed to calibrate support with the specific needs of agtech startups and the agricultural industry. AgLaunch365 is made possible through partnerships with Innova, Start Co., Farm Journal Media, Archer Malmo, and Baker Donelson.

About Tennessee Department of Agriculture

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is to promote wise uses of Tennessee’s agricultural and forest resources, to develop economic opportunities, and to ensure safe and dependable food, fuel, and fiber for all citizens. The Agriculture Enterprise Fund (AEF) is an incentive program that supports Governor Haslam’s priority of job creation and economic development by facilitating agricultural development in Tennessee. The AEF is a product of the Governor’s Rural Task Force. It is administered by the Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the Department of Economic and Community Development.

AgLaunch & TDA recognize the following farmers that are part of the AgLaunch Farmer Network:

  • Batey Farms, Rutherford County
  • Jonah Brannon/Brannon Farms, Henry County
  • D&J River Farms, Franklin and Lincoln Counties
  • Growing Acres, Hardin County
  • Harrison Dairy, Loudon and Monroe Counties
  • Mid-South Family Farms, Hardin, Haywood, Lauderdale, McNairy, Shelby and Tipton Counties
  • Norwood Farms, Henry County
  • Rose Creek Farm, McNairy County
  • Sneed Brother Farms, Shelby and Tipton Counties
  • Tosh Pork, Henry County
  • Yeargin Farms, Gibson and Weakley Counties



AgLaunch March 2018 Newsletter


It has been quite the winter! AgLaunch has been running full-steam ahead for the last few months. From hosting a convening with the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research about cropping systems of the future to recruiting and supporting new agtech teams, we’ve been busy.

As you know, we moved to year-round focused programming with AgLaunch365. We continue to work closely with Innova and their USDA RBIC AgInnovation Fund IV  to invest in innovative agtech companies. We had three teams join us in the fall to participate in Phase I, where they worked with our partners at StartCo. to conduct customer discovery and develop a viable business model. Participating teams were:

This culminated with a showcase at the Farm Journal AgTech Expo in Indianapolis. Read more about the teams that participated in the Expo here.

As 2018 kicked off, so did Phase II of our programming. Our teams began working with agronomists, farmers, and researchers to develop comprehensive, 3-year field trial plans to begin “ground-truthing” their technologies. Joining the cohort for this phase was Rantizo.

For the second year, AgLaunch hosted the StartUp Station as part of the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show, the premier event for thousands of farmers to experience three floors of exhibits and to see the latest in farm equipment technology. The StartUp Station boasted fifteen of the most innovative agtech companies in the business right now. They pitched their ideas to a panel of expert farmers, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs.

As an additional benefit for the Phase II teams, they were able to connect with Congressman David Kustoff and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and share their technologies with them directly.

Moving into the spring, we are in field-trial mode. Our teams are working directly with farmers to test their technologies and collect meaningful data. New this year is a cost-share pilot project with Tennessee Department of Agriculture for Tennessee farmers trialing AgLaunch companies’ technology. Additionally, AgLaunch was awarded a $125,000 grant from Tennessee’s Agriculture Enterprise Fund to create model farms for innovation and research.

Repeatedly this winter, I have been asked to share our vision, our model, and our work with members of state legislatures and, in February, I even testified about how agtech can revitalize rural America before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade. You can read my written testimony here.

We are extremely proud of the work we’ve done and how we’re growing. We want to thank Memphis  Bioworks and Tennessee Department of Agriculture for their continued support, and thank you for your role in building a truly transformational region and ag sector.

Kind Regards,


AgLaunch teams and partners with Sec. Perdue and Congressman Kustoff at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show

EarthSense’s robot makes an appearance at the Farm Journal AgTech Expo in Indianapolis, IN

Phase I teams at the Agricenter International fish fry in Memphis, TN

Pete Nelson addresses the US House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade in Washington, DC

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, AgLaunch, and TN Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton at the National Farm Bureau Convention in Nashville, TN

K-12 Ag Ed Roundtable group tours Germantown Farm Park in Memphis, TN

Scott Sartor of IndigoAg speaks at the Memphis Food & Ag Innovation Meetup


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