Vermont Business Magazine Eight entrepreneurial start-up companies convened Tuesday at the Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in South Burlington for their first “sprint” of Accel-VT—a business accelerator providing support, mentorship, and access to capital for early stage companies committed to climate economy innovation. The businesses were competitively selected to participate in Accel-VT to help solve the challenges related to the rapidly evolving agriculture and food technology space and include Agrilab Technologies of Enosburg Falls, Ceres Greens of Barre, Meristem Farms of Morrisville and businesses from Michigan, North Carolina, Minnesota, Georgia, and Hawaii.
Consumer demand for sustainable products, coupled with the desire to understand where those products come from, has created the need for technological advancements in agricultural and food technologies. Rural economies are struggling to maintain their local food systems and reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, especially as extreme weather events become more prevalent. Vermont, a longtime leader in the food and energy sectors is well positioned to foster the business sectors that will help address these challenges.
Over the next 3 months this cohort of Accel-VT entrepreneurs will work together in person to improve their business plans, network with ag and food tech industry leaders, meet with potential customers, and fast track their way to securing financial investments so they can grow or possibly relocate their business to Vermont. Additionally, two of the companies will be selected by their peers to each receive a $25,000 cash prize in December.
“Accel-VT entrepreneurs will work extremely hard over the next 3 months to hone their investment pitch, strengthen their business and product value proposition, and learn to think like an investor. This will make it much easier for them to raise the capital they need to scale their company as they will better understand what investors are looking for,” says Geoff Robertson, business assistance director at the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.
Accel-VT is managed by the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, a nonprofit organization working to improve sustainable economic development in Vermont. Partners and sponsors include the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, three leading dairy B-Corps (Cabot Creamery Co-operative, Ben & Jerry’s, and Vermont Creamery), the VT State Employees Credit Union, VLITE, four local restaurants, two state agencies, and 2 additional capital providers.
“As a food manufacturer and certified B Corp, our agricultural co-operative is proud to sponsor and advance this latest Accel-VT accelerator program,” said Jed Davis, Sustainability Director of Cabot Creamery Co-operative in Waitsfield. “Our industry is changing rapidly and our farmer members may benefit from some of the exciting products and services these start-up companies are developing. Accel-VT opens doors for ag and food tech entrepreneurs who share our goal of a greener planet, and these companies will help boost economic development in Vermont and beyond.”
The eight companies participating in Accel-VT program include:
- AgHelp (MI) is a mobile platform that helps agricultural employers source, retain, and attract local and national talent while connecting workers with local support services.
- Agrilab Technologies (VT) offers technical and development services to serve customers through all phases of a renewable energy, water quality or sustainability project.
- Ceres Greens (VT) is a vertical farming company growing and supplying customers with fresh, local leafy greens and herbs year-round.
- Freshspire (NC) is a web app that allows food suppliers to quickly sell surplus produce to local restaurants and food businesses.
- Meristem Farms (VT) produces a meaningful and consistent variety of raw flower, tinctures and other concentrates derived from Vermont’s finest hemp.
- Planetarians’ (CA) patent-pending technology takes ingredients like defatted seeds, converts them into a high-protein, high-fiber ingredient, and helps food manufacturers fortify a variety of food products with natural protein and fiber from seeds.
- Savor (GA) has a patented process to create edible cutlery that biodegrades in days, tastes great and works in hot soup and ice cream.
- Smart Yields (HI) connects farmers, agricultural researchers and their communities through crowd-sourced data gathered from a network of integrated sensors that measure everything from soil health to inputs such as water, energy and nutrients.
The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund is a nonprofit organization committed to nurturing the sustainable development of Vermont’s economy. VSJF provides business assistance, network development, strategic planning, and value chain facilitation in agriculture and food system, forest product, waste management, renewable energy, and environmental technology sectors. The Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund was created by the Vermont Legislature in 1995 to partner with state government, private sector businesses, and nonprofits to build a thriving economic, social, and ecological future for Vermont. www.vsjf.org