In a dynamic global marketplace driven by change, Indiana’s food and agricultural industry is no stranger to innovation. In fact, it is a hub for cutting-edge research and development. Recognizing the complex challenges facing the U.S. and abroad from food scarcity to security, Indiana’s businesses, industry associations, universities and government work tirelessly to improve efficiency, productivity and quality at every level.
Yet despite the state’s notable strengths in agricultural innovation over the years, there remained a lack of strategic collaboration among these entities – until now. In 2013, a new set of chapters unfolded, coupling the robust, future tech-oriented story with farming legacy.
Organizing for Innovation
When BioCrossroads, an organization dedicated to advancing Indiana’s life sciences and part of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, announced the organization of the Indiana Food and Agriculture Innovation Initiative (IFAII) in December 2013, there was immediate excitement. The State of Indiana, as well as several key industry stakeholders, including Beck’s Hybrids, Dow AgroSciences, Elanco, JBS United, Purdue University and many others, offered their support. Overnight, IFAII became a vital crossroads – the solution for bringing together innovators across all sectors in agriculture.
“This is about shifting yourself to the next ten, twenty, even fifty years of finding solutions – working on technologies and developing research – that agriculture is being looked at to answer,” says Beth Bechdol, director of agribusiness strategies, Ice Miller and executive director, IFAII.
While advancing innovation efforts through promotion, branding and strategic collaboration, IFAII would also provide entrepreneurial support for early-stage companies. As the initiative progressed and first-year milestones were achieved, the next steps became evident.
Building Upon Success
Announcing a groundbreaking industry report, new name and brand, IFAII metamorphosed into AgriNovus Indiana on Nov. 5, 2014. “One of our initial goals for the organization was to build a recognizable brand that was not only a reflection of the sector, but also representative of the State of Indiana,” explains Bechdol.
Using the detailed, “first-of-its-kind” study as a baseline, AgriNovus can redefine agricultural innovation assets and metrics, answering questions such as how many patents get filed, how many research articles are being published, or how many Ph.D.s are employed in certain segments of the industry.
The report titled Innovation Agbioscience in Indiana: A Baseline Assessment also identifies four key areas as the greatest opportunity for economic growth in Indiana, specifically: (1) plant science and crop protection; (2) animal health and nutrition products; (3) value-added human food and nutrition products; and (4) agricultural production equipment, processing equipment and precision agricultural systems. These crucial innovation drivers are now a primary focus for AgriNovus’ efforts in establishing strategic connections statewide.
“AgriNovus is a coordinating vehicle and communications tool, making others aware of Indiana’s rich story, attracting opportunities to the state and reminding companies within the state that this is a great place for business,” says Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample dean of agriculture at Purdue University, well-known for its contributions in science and technology. “We want to bring human talent to the table – faculty, staff and students – and be a source of innovation, bringing new ideas that ultimately become start-ups.”
Don Ohr, president of JBS United, a global leader in providing innovative solutions for animal health and nutrition, likewise sees tremendous benefits in talent sharing. “This initiative gives JBS United an opportunity to join with leading companies and create platforms for focus and collaboration, to anticipate and solve issues of mutual interest, and harness strengths within our state. Having world-class universities at the table provides an opportunity for us to hear and discuss possibilities that may be outside of our own corporate scope.”
What used to be a very disparate landscape in agriculture is now merging together with AgriNovus in the middle.
“Looking ahead,” adds Bechdol, “we must all remain proud of our production capabilities, but now more vocally promote and grow the innovative talent and technologies of Indiana.”