Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator Expands Focus to Identify and Promote Sustainable Agriculture Technologies

by | Sep 12, 2018

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DENVER–The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is expanding its program to advance technologies that address the interconnection of food, water and energy. The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will be a strategic partner to help further develop and validate promising agriculture technologies addressing critical sustainability challenges. The announcement was made at Danforth’s Ag Innovation Showcase on Sept. 11 in St. Louis.

“In looking to expand IN2, we discovered that one of the greatest opportunities for creating smart, connected, sustainable cities is finding efficiencies in the connections among food, energy and water use,” said Mary Wenzel, head of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Wells Fargo and IN2 board member. “Agriculture uses 70 percent of global water and 14 percent of global energy, and our IN2 program is uniquely positioned to further the development and commercialization of technologies that reduce agriculture’s carbon, energy and water impact.”

The Danforth Plant Science Center, the world’s largest independent plant science institute, will focus on research and validation of innovative solutions that address how to use digital agriculture to produce food more sustainably, much like the way NREL leads the program’s validation of technologies related to commercial buildings. Future IN2 activities under the food-water-energy nexus will include food system inefficiencies and water conservation to help meet IN2’s goal of advancing smart, connected communities.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with an organization that deeply understands the trifecta of basic science, innovation and commercialization,” said Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at NREL. “We cannot wait to see the benefit our next round of portfolio companies will receive.”

“As one of the largest lenders to the agriculture and agricultural technology (agtech) sectors, Wells Fargo will bring its expertise to bear in helping these early-stage startups make it to the commercial marketplace,” noted Ramsay Huntley, Clean Technology and Innovation Philanthropy program officer with Wells Fargo.

“Wells Fargo and NREL, through the expanded IN2 program, are the right partners with which to accelerate delivery of benefits from science and technology on the farm,” said Jim Carrington, president of Danforth Plant Science Center. “We are excited about this new partnership as a way to combine the focused scientific research capability at the center with pressing needs to deliver more sustainable and productive agriculture.”

IN2 finds and selects companies through a network of Channel Partners consisting of incubators, accelerators and universities across the U.S. After validation, participating companies with commercially ready technologies have the potential to beta test with a strategic program partner. IN2 already is examining its networks for potential beta testing partners and plans to announce the selection of Round 5 agtech portfolio companies in spring 2019. To date, IN2 has funded 20 early-stage companies that have gone on to raise $89.5 million in follow-on funding from external sources.

“For 20 years, the Danforth Center has been a driver in the growth of the food and agriculture innovation ecosystem,” said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer at Danforth Plant Science Center. “By leveraging the center’s excellence in plant research and its best-in-class technology infrastructure, the expanded INplatform will help accelerate agriculture technology commercialization for early-stage companies across the U.S. and the world.”

For a complete list of IN2 portfolio companies, visit in2ecosystem.com/portfolio-companies.

About the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator

IN2 is a $30 million clean-technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation. Administered by and housed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colo., IN2’s mission is to speed the path to market for early-stage, clean-technology entrepreneurs. Companies selected for participation in the program receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding, technical support and validation from experts at NREL and the Danforth Plant Science Center’s facilities, and the opportunity to beta test at a Wells Fargo facility or with a strategic program partner. Launched in 2014 with an initial focus on supporting scalable solutions to reduce the energy impact of commercial buildings, IN2 expanded its focus in 2018 to support innovation in sectors such as food systems, energy storage, water and others with the ultimate goal of fostering smart and connected communities of the future. For more information, visit in2ecosystem.com.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products, as well as consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,300 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 38 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 265,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 26 on Fortune’s 2017 rankings of America’s largest corporations. In 2017, Wells Fargo donated $286.5 million to 14,500 nonprofits and Wells Fargo team members volunteered a record 2 million hours. Wells Fargo’s corporate social responsibility efforts are focused on three strategic priorities: diversity and social inclusion, economic empowerment, and environmental sustainability. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science 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 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. For more information, visit danforthcenter.org.

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