Land O’Lakes is launching a new program in partnership Techstars focused on the intersection of food and technology.
Startup Next Food and Tech, Presented by Land O’Lakes — is a ‘pre-accelerator’ initiative operating under the Techstars brand with support from Arden Hills headquartered Land O’Lakes.
“Think of it as Techstars light,” says program director Brett Brohl, who became an EIR with Techstars earlier this year around the time Ryan Broshar joined the Target/Techstars vertical retail accelerator.
The non-residency, non-equity program is designed to serve between 8-10 early stage ventures that aren’t ready for funding and the commitment of a regular immersive accelerator.
“Even though Startup Next is part of Techstars, it’s not exclusively preparing startups for Techstars accelerator programs,” Brohl explains. “It’s a mentor heavy program that will beguided by Land O’Lakes leadership with other qualified peers.”
Formed in 1921, Land O’Lakes is a farmer owned cooperative with over 3,000 direct producer-members, 1,000 member-cooperatives, and 10,000 employees who process and distribute products for about 300,000 agricultural producers.
Predominantly known as a dairy company, there’s plenty of information technology driving their future. In December, 2013 Land O’ Lakes bought satellite imaging firm Geosys to enhance capabilities of their R7 precision ag platform (which formed a ‘data silo’ with Google just last week), while Answertech is an content platform and app store for ag tech software products.
In March, the company hitched on to Thrive, an accelerator focused specifically on ag tech startups.
Spokesperson Eliav Bitan explains their relationship with Startup Next as an “exciting experiment,” saying “A lot of innovation is coming from entrepreneurs in smaller startup companies and we see this as an opportunity to learn and support entrepreneurship in our area.”
“We’d love to see anything from innovative consumer products to traceability tools, distribution, supply chain efficiency, safety, food processing and logistics innovation. Startups relevant to food and technology in the retail, foodservice, industrial or other channels would be welcome. Startup innovations relevant to the dairy industry- from dairy farmers to dairy transportation, processing and products, will be of particular interest.”
The program begins in early August and runs weekly through a demo day in September; applications just opened this week, with an upcoming information session on June 7th at the Tractor Works Building in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood.