An accelerator that launched this fall is seeking to help Baltimore startups working in agriculture and aquaculture, and connect with the farmers, fishers and others who can benefit from they new approaches they’re pursuing.
F3 Tech Accelerator is a four-month program offering instruction in building a business, as well as connections to companies and users, said Mike Thielke, executive director of F3 Tech.
Short for Farm-Fish-Food, Eastern Shore–based F3 Tech looks to help folks working in those time-honored Maryland industries to harness technology. Bringing tech to a new industry has all sort of business considerations, such as the potential to improve production and adding more efficiency on the land and in the water. When it comes to farmers, accelerator program director Chris Hlubb said technology can help show a way toward the future of the industry at a time when generational shifts are leading some away from family farms.
“Technology can be a driver for economic development, for increased profits within farming, as well as showing them that they don’t need to leave their traditional roles and locations and can be involved in farming 2.0,” Hlubb said.
The program’s leaders are also finding connections across geographic lines.
“Our focus now is taking the technology developments in urban centers and helping them to apply to problems that exist in the rural areas,” Hlubb saud.
After running a series of pre-accelerator events in the spring where teams conducted proof-of-concept activities, the program launched in the fall with five startups in the first cohort, all from Baltimore city. They include:
- Algen Air, a startup founded by Dan Fucich and Kelsey Abernathy out of Baltimore’s IMET that seeks to improve indoor air quality with algae.
- Biotrophics, the startup founded by Sam Glickstein that harnesses insects as livestock. Read our profile here.
- Cykloburn, the Morgan State spinout developing technology that allows farmers to convert chicken litter to energy.
- HiveLend, a startup connecting beekeepers and farmers to help with pollination.
- VakSea, an IMET spinout developing proteins to boost immune systems in shrimp and aquaculture.
For the startups, the program includes a curriculum that’s designed to guide founders through the steps in building a business and launching a product. Hlubb said they take a “consultative” approach in identifying needs for each business.
#AlgenAir and @biotrophics from @F3TechMD accelerator program pitching at #ShoreHatchery. pic.twitter.com/RjiBiAb7KX
— F³Tech (@F3TechMD) October 26, 2018
A big focus, Hlubb said, is also on getting out and talking to people who might use the product. For entrepreneurs working in the city, making the connections to get the kind of feedback that can help a product grow could be a challenge. So F3 has the startups heading around the state to talk with people who might be potential users of the product. So they went to Perdue to meet with chicken farmers, as well as to meet with a company that contracts with DARPA. One stop will undoubtedly be an F3 Tech–organized forum on Nov. 28 at the Universities at Shady Grove, drawing speakers from around the country onagtech and aquatech. And they’ll continue to travel around the state, making use of a $10,000 stipend provided by the program. Hlubb said the goal is “to put them in front of actual potential customers, and then help them walk them through process, ask the right questions and then helping to create after that a means of communication.”
To close out the accelerator program, a demo day will be held on December 20, where another $25K will be awarded.
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