Is St. Louis the Silicon Valley of Agtech?

By on November 21, 2017

From AgFunder News:  St. Louis has worked hard to be a magnet for Fortune 500 companies. Nine members of this elite class call the city home, not the least of which is multinational agricultural giant Monsanto.

Walmart has more than 20,000 employees in St. Louis alone. Post Holding Co., which owns 24 of the most recognizable boxed cereal brands in the US, is based in the city and fast casual juggernaut Panera Bread is too.

With these headquarters surrounded by nearly 100,000 farms — Missouri is a major production state for soybeans, pork, dairy products, hay, corn, poultry, sorghum, cotton, rice, and eggs — nationally recognized university programs in agriculture and the sciences, and high-quality research facilities, St. Louis looks like a natural hub for agtech. And that’s before you get into the growing ecosystem of startup-specific resources.

Indeed the city has companies from all over the globe relocating to take advantage of the wealth of resources at hand, but the city also suffers from an exodus of companies that reach a certain point, according to a local venture capitalist.

“In the agtech community here in St. Louis people have long been frustrated with startups who raise money, gain traction and then leave for the coasts,” says David Russell, venture partner at Lewis & Clark Ventures, which has a $25 million fund to invest in agtech, on top of its $78 million main fund and an additional $25 million for healthcare investments. 

Abundant farmland in the state of Missouri and the greater midwest may help with this exodus, but lack of broad acreage hasn’t stopped many a successful agtech startup from finding a home on the coasts. The Climate Corporation, Monsanto’s flagship $1 billion agtech acquisition that’s credited with sparking venture capital interest in agtech, never left the Bay Area in favor of Monsanto’s headquarters.

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