Two Purdue agricultural-based startups received investments totaling $100,000 from the Purdue Ag-celerator, a plant sciences innovation fund operated by Purdue Ventures, the capital access arm of the Purdue Foundry, with assistance from the Purdue College of Agriculture, Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization and the agricultural industry.
Phicrobe LLC, a startup commercializing an innovative method for the inexpensive and rapid detection of pathogenic E. coli in food and food product environments, received $75,000 in funding. Hydro Grow LLC, a startup developing a refrigerator-sized automated device to grow vegetables in consumers’ homes, received $25,000.
The Ag-celerator is a $2 million fund supported through the Purdue Moves initiative designed to provide critical financial support for Purdue innovators wishing to commercialize patented intellectual property or Purdue know-how technologies in plant sciences, including areas of research in crop optimization, hybrid and seed development and precision agriculture.
Bruce Applegate, Purdue associate professor of food science, founded Phicrobe.
“The Ag-celerator investment Phicrobe has received will allow us to expedite the commercialization of the developed technology, moving it through the necessary approval process and certifications, to help ensure food safety,” Applegate said. “The Purdue Foundry has been a tremendous resource during the startup process, helping us to navigate our way through the initial steps of commercialization. Its support is a key component in our effort to commercialize intellectual property developed through the USDA-supported Center for Food Safety Engineering here at Purdue.”
Hydro Grow is a startup developing a patent-pending indoor refrigerator-sized automated, aero-ponic appliance capable of growing organic produce from ‘Bots,’ which are seed cups similar to coffee pods used in coffee machines. The startup was founded by Scott Massey, a senior in Purdue’s Polytechnic Institute.
“Being the recipient of the Ag-celerator fund is not only an incredible honor, but it is also very fulfilling to know that Hydro Grow will have the opportunity to fulfill its purpose; to provide all individuals with a hydroponic appliance capable of eliminating their dependence on a grocery store for most produce,” Massey said. “The funds the company has received will be used to continue the development of this next-generation model. The Ag-celerator and the Purdue Foundry have given the company an opportunity to acquire funding for continuous product development, provided valuable feedback, given unprecedented exposure and, most importantly, introduced us to industry leaders.”
Phicrobe and Hydro Grow were two of nine finalists that recently pitched to a selection committee as part of the fall semester Ag-celerator Demo Day at Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. Sixteen applications were reviewed by the Ag-celerator screening committee composed of officials from the College of Agriculture and Purdue Foundry.
The Demo Day selection committee consisted of agricultural industry professionals and investment experts including representatives from AgriNovus, Indiana’s food and agriculture innovation economic development initiative focused on advancing the sector; AgAlumni Seed, a hybrid popcorn seed export and breeding company; Cultivian Sandbox Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on building next-generation food and agriculture technology companies; and AgTech Accelerator, a startup accelerator focused on discovering and developing emerging agricultural technology companies. Karen Plaut, senior associate dean for research and faculty affairs in the College of Agriculture, also was on the committee.
“We believe the success of the Ag-celerator is dependent on strong participation numbers, so we were incredibly pleased with 16 applications for the first ever Ag-celerator,” said John M. Hanak, managing director, Purdue Ventures. “The startups who pitched their ideas on Demo Day had well-defined ideas that were, in many cases, well along the commercialization pathway. We look forward to continued strong participation in the future and want applicants to take advantage of everything the Foundry has to offer.”
Semifinalists and finalists who did not prevail, as well as any Purdue innovators creating a startup based on a Purdue plant sciences innovation, are eligible to apply for the Ag-celerator program. Details on the spring semester Ag-celerator will be announced in January.