F3 Tech Accelerator awards $25,000 pitch prize to Holganix

The F3 Tech Accelerator named the agtech company the winner of its 2021 pitch competition. In 2022, it is making admission changes to allow companies to apply on a rolling basis.

Holganix CEO Barrett Ersek won the F3 Tech pitch competition. (Courtesy photo)
Correction: The spelling of Barrett Ersek's last name has been corrected. (12/22/21, 6:48 p.m.)

At a pitch competition to close out its 2021 cohort, the F3 Tech Accelerator awarded $25,000 to Ashton, Pennsylvania-based plant probiotics manufacturer Holganix, and named the company the winner out of four startups that pitched at the event.

The Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) created F3 Tech in 2018 to focus on filling gaps in Maryland’s agriculture industry by identifying early-stage tech companies that are already manufacturing solutions, and providing assistance to help the companies  scale. It has the added goal of bringing companies to the Maryland area and turning it into an agtech hub. 

“The focus of the program is to bring together a network of mentors and investor contacts to create a commercial path to expand the amount of companies that are setting up a base of manufacturing [in Maryland], said Chris Hlubb, F3 Tech program director.

In Ashton, Holganix was already manufacturing two product lines of its own proprietary organic, non-manure-based fertilizer. F3 Tech saw the company as the perfect example of an agtech business ready to jump to the next stage of growth with the help of the accelerator’s Maryland market connections.

Now that Holganix has won the prize, ESEC and F3 tech are working to connect the company with large-scale commercial customers locally as it eyes a move to Maryland.

The accelerator has worked on a semester basis, with cohorts at the end of every year. For 2022, the accelerator is shifting to a rolling admission so it can engage and grow with early stage companies immediately when they are ready to take that next step in growth.

The best fit for the accelerator, according to Hlubb, is a company that has its “business plan, intellectual property and technology in play.” The accelerator isn’t looking for companies that just have a novel product or IP. Rather, it is focused on early stage companies that solve a verifiable need in the agtech industry.

“The expert guidance and industry contacts we received through the F3 Tech accelerator program are invaluable as we look to fully scale up and reach our maximum commercial potential,” said Holganix founder and CEO Barrett Ersek, in a statement.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.

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