TOPEKA — Corporate food and agriculture giant Cargill has inked a deal with Plug and Play to serve as founding partner for its animal health and agtech accelerator program in Topeka.
The companies announced the news Wednesday, firming up details surrounding the launch of the long-awaited accelerator — first announced in September 2019 and originally slated to begin this summer.
Click here to read more about last fall’s Plug and Play announcement.
“Their support and dedication will lay the foundation for entrepreneurs and startups to access the best resources available, beginning with industries such as animal health and agtech,” said Saeed Amidi, founder and CEO of Sunnyvale, California-based Plug and Play.
The three-month program is scheduled to debut virtually in the fall, Plug and Play told Startland News, expecting to draw 10 animal health companies to Topeka every six months.
“… This investment is a vital step; it will propel our community forward as we work to become a hub for animal science and ag-tech research,” added Topeka mayor, Michelle De La Isla. “I am grateful to our partners in GOTopeka for making this possible and am excited to watch a new generation of startups and entrepreneurs find their success in our great city.”
Plug and Play’s partnership with Minnesota-based Cargill is also expected to bring global impact to startups involved in the accelerator’s first cohort, the companies said, specifically noting synergy between their strengths and its expected power to push startups toward expanded footprints, customer variation and expansive knowledge of the ins and outs of the global supply chain.
Selection for the program’s initial cohort is well underway and an announcement of its startups and additional partners involved in the project is imminent, noted Katrin Bridges, senior vice president of innovation at the Greater Topeka Partnership.
“It’s just the perfect business model that Plug and Play has developed, because it creates wins for everybody involved,” she said. “[The program is] going to be providing access to new streams of innovation and deal flow to our local corporate partners — and for the startups, access to those corporate partners that could potentially run pilot projects with them and give them a platform for their technology to scale.”
With a 70-percent success rate and numerous examples of follow-on funding for participants in other Plug and Play programs, Bridges said the accelerator’s proven track record could also boost Topeka’s innovation ecosystem at a critical time in its growth.
“People are thinking, ‘If I wanted to make a change in my business, in my organization, now that everybody has been disrupted — I might as well do it now and reposition my business for the future.’ That’s where innovation comes in and I think we have seen that. We haven’t slowed down at all,” she said, noting the uniqueness of the COVID-19 era and her team’s commitment to building a better Topeka despite it.
Click here to read the latest update on Topeka’s proposed innovation district.
“Disruption can come from anywhere. And, most likely, disruption is going to come from something that you don’t see [coming],” Bridges said.