Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Agribusinesses, Nurtured at Creve Coeur-Based Yield Lab, Take Root Here

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Agribusinesses, Nurtured at Creve Coeur-Based Yield Lab, Take Root Here

Article excerpt

One entrepreneur waved a check from his first U.S. customer, others mentioned success in finding investors and one boasted about a bumper tomato crop.

All of them have been meeting monthly since January at Yield Lab, an agribusiness accelerator program based in Creve Coeur, to learn how to build their fledgling businesses. They've been introduced to, and have learned from, farmers, venture capitalists, patent lawyers and big-company executives.

As the entrepreneurs gathered last week for their final two-day session, each seemed genuinely interested in the others' successes.

Robert Neidermyer, of organic fertilizer company Holganix, elicited smiles all around when he described the results of a trial using his product on an Indiana tomato field. It increased yields by 12 percent.

Although his fellow entrepreneurs are pursuing very different businesses, all say learning from others' successes and struggles has been a key part of the program.

"We're all trying to scale up," said Claire Kinlaw, director of product development at TerViva, which is developing an Asian tree called pongamia as an oilseed crop. "You learn a lot from how other companies are facing the same challenges."

Toms Pea, the guy who waved the check, said he's had a lot of support from both Yield Lab staff and fellow entrepreneurs. "We will say out loud to anyone who asks: We wouldn't be where we are if not for Yield Lab."

Pea's company, S4, gathers agricultural data for lenders and investors. Through connections that Yield Lab helped it make, S4 is running a pilot program with a Midwestern insurance company.

Agerpoint, another crop-data company participating in Yield Lab, uses software to map orchards and vineyards with detailed information about individual plants. Alan Overton, Florida-based Agerpoint's director of operations, says he's pursuing possible collaborations with both S4 and TerViva. …

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