SBA Supports Mississippi Delta AgriFood Regional Innovation Cluster Expansion Led by AgLaunchSBA

Award Advances National Strategy to Increase AgTech Startup Investments in Robotics, Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Biological Inputs Supporting Farmer-Led Innovation Model

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Nov. 15, 2023) — AgLaunch Engine, LLC, a subsidiary of Memphis-based non-profit, AgLaunch Initiative, has been selected as a 2023 Regional Innovation Cluster (RIC) awardee by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Investment and Innovation securing a 5-year, $2.5 Million commitment to build on the RIC operated by AgLaunch in the Mississippi Delta region since 2019. 

This federal award allows AgLaunch to bolster opportunities for startups and small businesses within the Mid-South MS Delta RIC, the first SBA-designated national cluster for the agrifood sector, initially funded in 2019. RICs are networks of small businesses, suppliers, service providers and institutions that collaborate to optimize resources, compete effectively and foster innovation and job creation. This award builds from additional Federal and State investment toward a regional innovation model, including the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build to Scale program, and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Launch Tennessee’s mentor and investment partnership.

“The Mississippi Delta offers immense potential for transforming our food systems due to its abundant agricultural resources, diverse talent and institutional partnerships,” said AgLaunch President, Pete Nelson. “We’re grateful for SBA’s support, which validates our multi-state regional approach to growing investments in agtech startups and small businesses that are helping to bring about this transformation.”

“Regional Innovation Clusters are funded by SBA to help deepen our geographical reach and support innovative companies that are building technologies critical to our national security and economic competitiveness,” said Isabella Casillas Guzman, SBA Administrator. “As the Biden-Harris Administration invests in America, we are ensuring we can lead the world in emerging technologies while creating great companies and jobs in all corners of this country. The SBA will bring to bear its entire offerings to ensure small businesses have the capital, knowledge networks, mentors, and revenue growth opportunities to continue to power America’s economy.”

The Mid-South MS Delta RIC is comprised of 102 mostly rural counties across Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee, representing ample production acreage, research institutions, and processing, storage and logistics infrastructure for growing successful agtech innovations and small businesses. AgLaunch, in collaboration with key partners, will lead regional activities, including cohort-based programs, business acceleration, commercialization support, mentorship, access to capital, market development, and other services. They’ll also expand their Farm-Centric Innovation Model, a unique approach for nurturing agriculture businesses, attracting investment, and involving farmers in the innovation process.

The RIC’s primary focus is creating and scaling rural small businesses that bridge urban food processing opportunities and emerging consumer trends. AgLaunch also manages SBA-funded RICs in the Pacific Northwest and Southern Appalachian regions, alongside regional initiatives with private sector partners in the Midwest and Southern Plains. “Regional Innovation Clusters work directly with American innovators and entrepreneurs to forge connections, provide industry or technological subject matter experience, and assist with access to capital, customers, and contracts,” said Bailey DeVries, Associate Administrator for the SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation. “We are incredibly excited to expand this important national innovation network and ensure innovative, high-growth businesses thrive in industries of national importance.”

Nelson acknowledged the pivotal role played by congressional delegations, USDA Rural Development agencies in the region and multi-state leadership in making the award possible. In particular, he noted the support of AgLaunch’s work by Governor Bill Lee and Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher of Tennessee, and the sustained effort by Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Launch Tennessee toward a regional open innovation model to benefit farmers and agtech startups. Nelson also recognized the USDA’s Rural Business Investment Program and Farm Credit Mid-America, which along with other US Farm Credit Institutions are providing capital towards the AgLaunch farm-centric innovation model.

Link to SBA Regional Innovation Cluster Press Release here.


About AgLaunch – AgLaunch is shaping the future of agriculture through its platform of innovative farmers from diverse farming operations that crowdsource due diligence, share data, coordinate farm trials, support a nationally recognized accelerator and provide investment capital to support agtech startup companies from idea-to-scale. AgLaunch’s platform bridges the gap from how we farm now to the way we will farm in the future. AgLaunch believes that the future of farming is nutrient dense crops and carbon negative farms supported by innovative digital, robotic and biological solutions with more equitable ownership in the value-chain. AgLaunch is a Regional Innovation Cluster lead for SBA and EDA that includes Mississippi Delta counties in Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee, and works across multiple regions with partners in Appalachia, the Pacific Northwest, Southern Plains and Midwest. Learn more at www.aglaunch.comAbout the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) – SBA makes the American dream of business ownership a reality.  As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. The SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation (OII) leads programs that provide the high-growth small business community with access to two things: financial capital and R&D funds to develop commercially viable innovations. Our work is underpinned by public-private partnerships that help small businesses on their trajectory from idea to IPO. Learn more at

Media Contact:  Pete Nelson 901-315-1694

Startup Salin247 works with AgLaunch Farmer Network members who are part of the Regional Innovation Cluster to field test autonomous equipment for planting, spraying and other field applications. – Photo provided by AgLaunch
Kristine White of the company Spornado demonstrates their product in field at the 2023 AgLaunch Portfolio Showcase and Field day. Spornado is collecting fungal spores in fields to make fungicide recommendations and avoid over spraying working with the AgLaunch Farmer Network. – Photo provided by AgLaunch

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