Benson Hill Biosystems, a startup combining plant biology, big data analytics, and cloud computing to help build better crops, had a clear destination in mind as it grew. “It’s just a no brainer,” says Mohammed Oufattole, vice president of research and development at the company. Nowhere else — not Silicon Valley, not New York, not Austin or any tech hotspot — had the combination of talent and technical infrastructure for agriculture technology he says.
“Every agtech startup – particularly one focused on the biology, not just the technology – needs three things: talent, infrastructure, and capital. At the time we founded Benson Hill and were getting it off the ground, St. Louis was the only geography that supplied all of these ingredients,” Matt Crisp, the CEO of Benson Hill, told AgFunder News.
Oufattole came from one of the pillars of that infrastructure, Monsanto, which is being acquired by Bayer. But others, such as the Helix Center and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and BioResearch & Development Growth (BRDG) Park with more than 200 scientists are also contributing to the thriving agtech scene. So are University of Missouri, Washington University and the Missouri Botanical Garden.
“We saw the need these companies had and jumped in with affordable lab space at Helix Center. This coupled with our financing tools such as crowdfunding on Nvsted, small business loans and venture capital made this the ideal place to locate and grow,” said Sheila Sweeney, CEO, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.
The area is also home to 45 percent of portfolio companies for The Yield Lab, one of the first agtech startup accelerators, according to AgFunder News. Cultivation Capital and Lewis & Clark Ventures are among the VC firms actively looking for deals in the region. Now, 39 North, an innovation district taking shape in Creve Coeur, is helping strengthen St. Louis County’s role at the heart of agriculture technology.
This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Business Journal. View the rest of the article here.