Plug and Play, the world’s largest accelerator based in Silicon Valley, added a new agtech location in Fargo this year in a partnership with Grand Farm to push innovation forward. Plug and Play is an early investor and accelerator for startups. The magic happens when Plug and Play enters a vertical and helps corporate partners solve pain points and drive innovation by connecting them with startups.
Plug and Play currently has 13 startups they are bringing to the area as part of their efforts with Grand Farm. The 13 companies were whittled down from a list of thousands and refined through a Shark Tank-like event before finally being confirmed as part of the cohort. To learn more about the partnership, we sat down with the Director of Grand Farm, Brian Carroll, and Plug and Play’s Director of North
Dakota Agtech, Felipe Gonzalez.
How are Plug and Play and Grand Farm collaborating?
Brian: Plug and Play and the Grand Farm are connected in two specific areas. The first connection is in ecosystem development. At Grand Farm, we have strong regional connections, but Plug and Play will be able to connect us over time on a national and g lobal level. We’re having engagements now with companies in Australia, Brazil, Canada and elsewhere. The other main area that we have is the innovation platform. We identified with Grand Farm that innovation will be central to a lot of the work that we want to do. This is our opportunity to work with large organizations, companies, startups and researchers and do it in a collaborative way.
Felipe: We came to Fargo to be connected to the Grand Farm. We are the big accelerator company that can bring startups into Grand Farm’s test site. We want to feed as many technology startups to Grand Farm so they can be tested. We want to try to be global, and bring a global aspect to Grand Farm. We have 30 offices around the world and run 50 acceleration programs around the world. Our plan is to be connected to all these ecosystems around the world and build a bridge to Grand Farm.
Is this Plug and Play’s first venture into the agtech space?
Felipe: We started one that is a little bit of an agtech focus in Brazil, but it’s not 100 percent. Our efforts here are the first full agtech vertical with 100 percent dedication to agriculture technologies. We’re really excited to dive into this industry as an investor. One of the ways that we make our money is by investing in companies. We didn’t know too much about agriculture, and we want to be part of that more because we know the importance of it.
Why should growers care about Plug and Play coming to Fargo?
Brian: When we first came up with the Grand Farm concept, we broke our roadmap down into five strategic areas.
- Accelerated Learning
- Policy and Governance
There are some amazing startups that are being introduced into this area. There’s a whole bunch of different great startup companies within this region. But we’re considering what it would look like if we were able to create some additional capabilities around venture capital that would allow our Grand Farm partners to have an opportunity to invest in some of these great companies that are coming out here.
Once COVID is over, and the startups are actually able to come to Fargo, what will that mean for Fargo and the region?
Brian: This will really help amplify the events we already have like 1 Million Cups, Cultivate Conference, Autonomous Nation, TEDx and Prairie Capital Summit. As we move forward, we will be able to create additional events and
programming as the startups come here. We’ll be able to match them with venture capital firms. We will be able to create opportunities for all the startups and organizations to work together in a collaborative way. This will really bring a lot of focus, energy and attention into this region and really connect us to the broader ecosystem that we described earlier.
Felipe: Emerging Prairie is the best at getting people together at local events. We’re the best at connecting people globally. We like to collaborate between verticals, industries, companies, startups and investors. That’s the plan for Fargo in the future.
During Emerging Prairie’s grower roundtables this year, one of the big complaints that we heard was that a lot of the companies that are doing innovation in agtech are on the coasts, especially in Silicon Valley. Why is it important for Silicon Valley companies to actually have boots on the ground here in an agricultural hotspot like Fargo?
Felipe: Honestly, Silicon Valley and the east coast don’t know anything about agriculture. We ourselves didn’t know much until we moved here. I tell all the startups that come through that if they think New York or Silicon Valley is the place to be because that’s where the money is, they’re wrong. I think these startups should be here in the Midwest and working close with the farmers.
Having these startups here is a great opportunity for them to learn a little bit more about the growers. It’s a game changer for startups. Whenever we start to build an ecosystem that is local, with a lot of startups coming over here, the money starts to flow this way as well.
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