TechAccel announced Thursday that it will expand to St. Louis, Mo., opening office space within the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a nonprofit research center.
Based in Mission, Kan., TechAccel is a venture and research firm that invests in advanced agriculture and animal health technologies. The development marks the first time the company has established a presence outside of TechAccel headquarters.
St. Louis County is responsible for over $17 billion in sales in agriculture, forestry and related industries, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. TecAccel CEO Michael Helmstetter said that this expansion to St. Louis will allow the firm to tap more resources, furthering its mission of becoming a Midwest hub for ag tech.
“St. Louis is one of the top epicenters of agriculture in the United States and it’s an important place for us to have high visibility,” Helmstetter said. “There is a huge opportunity to attract amazing talent in the agriculture and animal health space. By having offices in St. Louis, we have a greater potential to attract the kind of scientists we’re looking for.”
Not only is the Danforth Center a world leader in plant science, but the firm already had a working relationship with TechAccel. In 2016, TechAccel announced a $250,000 research partnership with the Danforth Center. The funds go toward demonstrating proof of concept and commercial feasibility for Danforth Center projects, bringing the technologies to market faster.
Helmstetter said the decision to lease office space within the Danforth Center was a perfect addition to a growing relationship.
“We’ve already established a deep alliance with the Danforth Center so having our offices at the plant center is a perfect match for both organizations,” Helmstetter said. “The Danforth Center is focused on discovery in the agriculture space and we are focused on taking discoveries to market.”
The partnership is a two-way street, Helmstetter said.
“We are excited to see TechAccel expanding in the St. Louis region,” James C. Carrington, president of the Danforth Center, said in a release. “This arrangement presents a mutually beneficial opportunity to encourage growth and nurture creative collaborations at the same time.”
Instead of competing with Silicon Valley, Helmstetter said the Midwest region should improve upon an existing strength.
“Life science is growing in Kansas City due to research activity, funding and venture capital,” Helmstetter said. “We still have a long way to go if we want to be seen as the top area in the Midwest, but all of the pieces are already here. We tend to be awfully modest in the Midwest and we rarely stand up and say ‘We’re the best!’ If we take things one step further, we could be an agriculture hub, as we are already very competitive in that space.”
Since its launch in 2014, TechAccel has made investments in five tech companies. Helmstetter said the firm is particularly interested in investing in startup companies.
In 2017, the firm invested in Iowa-based Agrivida and Nebraska-based Epicrop Technologies. Looking at the year ahead, Helmstetter said TechAccel wants to focus its efforts on the business development of its portfolio companies.