AndMore Associates, LLC
IFA: What is the Ag Innovation Showcase?
Bob Morris: The Ag Innovation Showcase is the flagship annual event which brings together leading strategic players in the agri-food sectors with innovators, start-ups and influential investors to highlight new ventures, innovations and emerging technology solutions. The event was conceived in 2008 by Rohit Shukla, CEO of the Larta Institute, a leading technology commercialization accelerator, and Sam Fiorello, COO of the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Missouri, the world’s largest independent plant science center. They convened the first Ag Showcase the next year at the Danforth Center and it has continued to lead and grow in stature in each consecutive year.
From the beginning, the Showcase has brought to the forefront advances and issues facing the future of agriculture including biofuels, biomaterials, biotechnology, animal health, digital and precision agriculture, and soil health in addition to highlighting emerging technology developments from around the world. The event has successfully showcased 186 ventures from more than 15 countries who collectively have raised $1.1BN in funding. In addition, 94% of the companies showcased have found potential partners and 89% have found potential investors with 6 important acquisitions among alumni companies.
IFA: What is the focus of this year’s showcase and why was it chosen?
Bob Morris: The themes this year are nutrition and sustainability from farm to plate, with a focus on plant nutrition. The agricultural technology (agtech) space has been largely dominated by developments in information technology, biotechnology and clean technology. While precision agriculture, digital agriculture, biologicals and genomics have received the most focus, there has been relatively little direct attention on plant nutrition, even though it is the largest of the agricultural input industries.
Since fertilizer industry R&D investment has lagged behind the other verticals, I have been advocating for the fertilizer and plant nutrition industries to become more actively involved in the agtech innovation and investment space for some time, as well as encouraging agtech stakeholders to engage more with the plant nutrition sector about new opportunities for innovation. There is a tremendous opportunity for strategic companies, innovators and investors to engage with the plant nutrient industry to improve productivity and profitability along the nutritional value chain.
For these reasons, I am delighted with the very strong focus on plant nutrition this year and the engagement of IFA (International Fertilizer Association) and a large number of IFA members in this year’s Showcase. The organizers were very receptive to the idea of engaging the fertilizer industry and likewise, Charlotte Hebebrand, IFA’s Director General, saw an opportunity for IFA and its members to advance innovation and accelerate investment in “plant nutrition solutions,” which can enhance the efficiency of fertilizer use.
IFA: Can you tell us about some of the speakers and companies that will be presenting?
Bob Morris: Drawing from the overall theme, the program this year will tell the story of the nutritional value chain by leaders from around the world. The stage will be set at the opening with Pepsico Vice Chairman Mehmood Khan’s keynote “From Table to Farm: The Modern Consumer’s Reverse-Commute Across the Value Chain” discussing consumer drivers and the challenges ahead in agriculture for all stakeholders. The second day keynote conversation will be led by IFA’s Charlotte Hebebrand with Stefan Fürnsinn, SVP Digital Farming at Yara, and Mark Thompson, VP of Business Development for Nutrien, discussing “How to Most Effectively Implement the 4Rs of Precise Plant Nutrition” with a strong focus on digital agriculture.
Continuing on the theme, Jill Kolling, Global Sustainability Leader at Cargill, will speak about food chain transparency and traceability and Neal Gutterson, CTO of Corteva on building a more sustainable agriculture. Rakesh Kapur, IFA Chairman, joint MD and CFO of IFFCO; Marouane Ameziane, EVP of Strategy and Corporate Development, OCP; and Zhai Jidong, EVP of Kingenta, will spotlight big new global markets. On the last day I will be leading a panel discussion on “Precise Plant Nutrient Solutions” with Jon Sammons, Specialty Agriculture Marketing Manager, ICL Specialty Fertilizers, Guiseppe Natale, CEO, Valagro, and C. Ryan Bond, VP, Strategic Marketing & Innovation, Koch Agronomic Services. Sanjeev Krishnan, Managing Director from S2G Ventures and Matt Crisp, CEO of Benson Hill will lead discussions on food value chain transparency and traceability, nutrition and the future of protein.
Finally, there will be 14 new companies pitching their innovations during the Showcase including plant nutrient focused offerings.
IFA: This is now the 10th anniversary of the event (congratulations!) – what makes it so special and unique?
Bob Morris: What makes the Showcase stand out is the diverse spectrum of people getting together in the unique setting of the Danforth Center. It attracts a wide range of participants from various disciplines and sectors from around the world including industry leaders, early-stage companies, entrepreneurs, investors and other stakeholders from industry, the financial sector, governments and NGOs committed to food and agriculture.
The Showcase was the first of its kind in the global agricultural innovation and R&D sector and has always been a thought leader staying ahead of other similar events in the food and ag sphere. Through the passion and dedication of the organizers and their supporters, the Showcase has built a strong ecosystem of people and organizations who elevate the dialogue on agricultural innovation.
I attended the first Showcase in 2009 and have returned every year getting more integrally involved on the Advisory Committee, and, of course, now in helping to support the engagement of the global plant nutrient sector. I encourage all those interested to register and join us (www.agshowcase.com) in St Louis, Missouri, from 10-12 September.
About Bob Morris
Bob Morris is president of AndMore Associates, LLC. In Washington, D.C. A veteran of the global fertilizer industry, previously Bob was president of The Sulphur Institute where he led global programs that positioned sulphur as an essential plant nutrient. For the past decade, he has focused on the emerging agtech sector, advising strategic players across the spectrum from start-ups to agtech investment funds. Bob serves as an expert on advisory committees and boards including the Ag Innovation Showcase, IFA Agriculture and Communications committees, and Rutgers University MBS program. Bob is an agronomist with a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.S. from Penn State University. @AndMoreAssoc │ https://www.linkedin.com/in/rjmorrisdc