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Mimetic will host its first hackathon in February, bringing innovation to Pittsburgh agtech

The partnership from RustBuilt Pittsburgh and KRNLS aims to include both technologists and farmers for its first collaborative event for agricultural industry-related problem solving.

On the farm. (Photo by Pexels user Tom Fisk, used via a Creative Commons license)
Pittsburgh’s agricultural tech industry is growing, with a new opportunity for innovation from newcomers.

Mimetic, an agricultural tech partnership launched last fall between KRNLS and RustBuilt Pittsburgh, announced today that it will host a new agtech hackathon in collaboration with Washington, Pennsylvania-based Ignite Business Incubator, which connects innovators across Southwestern Pennsylvania’s urban, suburban and rural regions.

This inaugural event will bring together teams of entrepreneurs and problem solvers to develop ideas to address the high prices of farming equipment. The free, daylong event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 19 at the incubator, located at 57 E. Chestnut St. in Washington.

“Through our research and interviews of farmers and ranchers, [expensive farming equipment] is a problem that came up over and over again,” KRNLS cofounder Olga Pogoda told in an email. “And this problem is not just local to [Southwestern] PA. This is a national scale problem. Especially right now with so many supply chain issues and environmental issues, we need to be thinking of creative ways to solve this, otherwise what does our future look like?”

Teams for the competition can range from two to five people, and can develop solutions involving hardware, software or human-centered design. All teams are recommended to at least end up with a starting idea and some preliminary market and customer research, where applicable. The schedule for the event includes a breakfast kickoff, two work sessions, a provided lunch and a pitch competition, followed by the award presentation and happy hour for all participants.

This movement toward agtech innovation could be a way to continue bridging the Pittsburgh area's prominent industries of the past with those of its future.

The winning team will get the chance to continue work on their idea with the Ignite Business Incubator, with access to the center’s assistance and entrepreneurship expertise.

“We are looking to engage with the local community, business partners and anyone who is willing to contribute their time towards this farming challenge,” Ignite Business Incubator Manager Lauren LaGreca said. She encouraged all interested to register, “whether you want to create an actual prototype or have an idea for a streamlined process or workflow.”

While Pittsburgh is perhaps best known for its prowess in robotics and artificial intelligence, there are early signs that other sectors, like agricultural tech, are on the rise here too. There are already prominent award-winning startups like Bloomfield Robotics, as well as more established growth companies like Four Growers and Fifth Season building a foundation to uplift even more innovators. But more importantly, this movement toward agtech innovation could be a way to continue bridging the Pittsburgh area’s prominent industries of the past with those of its future.

Pogoda said Mimetic’s focus is on all of Southwestern Pennsylvania, including the counties surrounding Pittsburgh, which means it can have a wider impact on agtech innovation.

“Pittsburgh is not its own bubble,” she said. “We have some incredible startups in Pittsburgh focused on agtech and I would just like to see everyone include our surrounding communities as [we] think of how they expand and grow.” Mimetic, she continued, will continue to be an org where both technologists and farmers can find a common ground for partnerships and innovation.

For now, the event is scheduled to take place in person, following appropriate COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, Pogoda said. And while this is the first hackathon from Mimetic, both she and LaGreca shared that they hoped to host more in the future.

RSVP here Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 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 Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Mimetic / RustBuilt

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