Five Things: AgTech Connect

These are a few of the major takeaways from the 2023 AgTech Connect conference. TL;DR agtech is full of opportunity and Nebraska investors are paying attention.

Last week SPN attended the AgTech Connect Conference in Lincoln. The event was produced by The Combine and Invest Nebraska and attracted folks from across Nebraska and the Midwest. It was a chance to connect with innovators in the AgTech space, including some familiar faces like Grain Weevil CEO Chad Johnson. Stay tuned for more stories from the space soon.

Here are five takeaways from the day. This is in no way a comprehensive recap of the day’s programming, but more of a vibe check:

1. The future of agtech is data-enabled. From managing herds of cattle to optimizing irrigation efforts to measuring soil nutrient levels — leveraging data to increase efficiency was a major theme from startups all the way up to large corporations and producers. Utilizing data allows ag producers to increase productivity and financial returns while minimizing costs.

2. All parts of the ecosystem have to be engaged in order to grow. In order for Nebraska to become a hub of agtech innovation, all the key stakeholders need to be aligned to make the greatest impact. That includes: startups, investors, universities, enterprise and local government. AgTech Connect obviously made an effort to engage all of these groups of stakeholders in the conference programming.

3. Sustainability matters. Sometimes sustainability is driven by consumer demands. Other times it comes from a more innate desire for conservation or a want to pass land down to future generations. Or maybe it’s about maximizing resources. Whatever the motivation, finding more sustainable ways to operate — in terms of business operation and the environmental impact — is a major opportunity for innovation.

4. Money is flowing right now from investors. Invest Nebraska, Grit Road Partners, MOVE VC, Nebraska Angels, NMotion and The Combine all had a presence during the conference.  Several groups held roundtable discussions to discuss funding opportunities and how to prepare to seek outside investment. I connected with several startups on the verge of announcing $1M+ funding rounds.

5. You don’t have to have an agriculture background to win in agtech. One founder explained that since he didn’t have a background in ag it forced him to be laser focused on the end customer in order to make product decisions and form insights. Other founders cited a plethora of interesting and practical problems in need of solving as what drew them to building in the space. Founders and investors alike said that there are plenty of potential mentors and advisors thanks to the deep network of agricultural knowledge in Nebraska. 

Did you attend AgTech Connect? What were your major takeaways from the day?

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