Uptick in women-led companies at Ag Innovation Showcase

Wisconsin State Farmer

Los Angeles, Calif.

Anne Schauer-Gimenez, VP of Customer Engagement, reviewing notes on the exhibition floor of Ag Innovation Showcase 2015.

At the 8th annual Ag Innovation Showcase in St. Louis, MO, (September 14-16), six women-led businesses will pitch on the main stage– up from last year’s total of four women-led companies. The startups come with ideas to heal the planet, solve world hunger, save California’s citrus orchards, and fix the world-wide protein shortage.

The jump in women-led presenting companies at the event has been building over the past few years. More women are applying for the 20 coveted presenter spots, and more women are finding themselves among the lucky few who get to pitch their companies to an audience of investors, industry partners and entrepreneurs.

“When we started Ag Showcase, back in 2009, it was with the idea to accelerate ag innovation in a meaningful way,” says Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer, Danforth Plant Science Center and president, Bio Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park, co-organizers with Larta Institute of the Showcase. “It is encouraging to see more female entrepreneurs being highlighted at this world-class event.”

Women trending for Ag Showcase

Last year the winner and runner up for Ag Showcase’s Best of Show award were both women – Amelia Baxter, from WholeTrees, and Sara Bellos from Stony Creek Colors, respectively.

“The trend towards women should not be surprising,” says Rohit Shukla, CEO and founder of Larta Institute. “These are talented, driven, consummate entrepreneurs who happen to be women, and many of them are committed to, and focused on building ecologically responsible technologies. As such, they are an inspiration to all innovators in this evolving and inspired sector.”

6 Women-led innovations will present at Ag Innovation Showcase

Working on both the protein and greenhouse gas issue, NeoGram is a two-for-one company from Argentina. They have bred a tropical grazing grass for cows that improves the grass to meat ratio by 37%, and cuts down on greenhouse emissions from cattle by 58%.
Kiverdi, from Hayward, California, eliminates greenhouse gasses by recycling them through a single cell organism to produce food or fuel. It’s a new twist to an old technology used by NASA in the 1960s.
Cotyledon Consulting, from Canada, is solving the weed problem with “StemShock” - a biological solution to herbicide resistance.
Ignitia, from Stockholm, Sweden, has a scalable tropical weather forecasting model they designed for small-holder farmers in West Africa that is nearly twice as accurate as existing global models, giving farmers an opportunity to increase their yield.
Florida’s orange industry was pummeled by citrus greening, but California’s orchards stand a chance. XTB Laboratories, from Davis, California, has developed early detection for this devastating disease.
SmartVision Works, from Orem, Utah, has a patent pending machine that can sort and classify anything as small as a micrometer. The technology currently sorts dates. Check out the machine in action here:

Investment in women is traditionally low

In a recent study by Stanford, venture capital investment in women-owned companies is shockingly low – only 4.2% of venture capital is invested in these ventures. When women are excluded from the investment process – a make or break point for any startup – potential talent and capacity that they offer is lost.

“It’s tough for any company to succeed without the support of investors,” says Claire Kinlaw, director of Larta Institute’s ag practice. “Rather than exclude a huge swath of talent, what we need is as many people as possible who are talented entrepreneurs with technologies that solve the world’s toughest problems and whose companies will create jobs.”

A big break for startups

Karen Sorber, a showcase alum, says of the event, “Ag Innovation Showcase was the best thing to happen in my company’s life.” After pitching her company, Micronic Technologies, on the main stage she was introduced to reps from Cargill, Pegasus and Monsanto.

“Ag Showcase is a place where deals are made,” says Fiorello. Adds Shukla, “Investors and industry buyers come every year looking for the next big thing, and guess what? It could very well be technology being commercialized by a woman-led startup.”

About Ag Innovation Showcase

Established in 2009, the Ag Innovation Showcase is the world’s premier event focusing on the convergence of agriculture and technology. It brings together those with a significant stake in agriculture and agricultural technology – innovators, researchers, government agencies, corporations, investors and others – to promote investment in cutting-edge technology and biotechnology to meet the world’s growing food supply needs. Twitter: @agshowcase

About Larta Institute

Larta Institute, founded in Los Angeles in 1993, is an internationally-recognized technology accelerator that has helped more than 10,000 companies transform ideas into commercialized, socially-beneficial innovations in science and technology, particularly in agriculture and the life sciences. With a global network of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, industry leaders, research institutions, government agencies, and support organizations, Larta conducts commercialization assistance programs throughout the U.S. and in more than 20 countries. Follow Larta on Twitter @LartaInstitute and their blog Vox: voices on the global economy.

About Donald Danforth Center

Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science.  Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science.

The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To keep up to date with Danforth Center’s current operations and areas of research, please visit,, featuring information on Center scientists, news, and the “Roots & Shoots” blog. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.

About BRDG Park at the Danforth Center

Bio Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park at the Danforth Plant Science Center helps life science companies bridge research, resources and relationships to achieve commercial success.

In addition to providing world-class wet laboratories, office space and a prominent incubator, BRDG Park’s location on the Danforth Center’s campus facilitates access to the intellectual capital of top scientists, as well as to greenhouses, growth chambers, microscopy and proteomics facilities and other vital resources.

Located in suburban St. Louis County, Missouri, BRDG Park is being developed by Wexford Science +Technology LLC, a BioMed Realty Company, a development company led by a seasoned team of real estate, finance and engineering experts specializing in major university facilities and science research parks nationwide. More information is available at or @BRDGPark.