All-Star ag tech VC's mission: Solve the global food crisis

This article was published in the Kansas City Business Journal July 13, 2017: All-star ag tech VC’s mission: Solve the global food crisis.

Technology Acceleration Partners LLC may be locally based, but its mission is thinking global – and big. Its primary goal is to help solve the global food crisis. CEO Michael Helmstetter talks about the company’s mission and the investments it has made to help solve the problem.

With an expanding world population and a middle class that’s expected to double by 2030, innovation will play a key role in meeting food demands. It means farmers must produce more with the same acreage. So the Overland Park-based technology and venture development company is focused on investing in disruptive technologies that produce the greatest impact in addressing those needs.

“It’s really about sustainable global food security,” TechAccel CEO Michael Helmstetter told the Kansas City Business Journal.

That means introducing innovations that increase food accessibility, efficiency and quality.

An example is its investment in Agrivida Inc., which is producing enzymes in corn that can help poultry and swine better absorb nutrients and excrete less phosphorus. It recently received regulatory approval for its first product for poultry.

“It leads to a healthier animal and a higher quality meat produced,” he said. “The neat thing about it is you’re manufacturing it in their food.”

TechAccel also invested in Benson Hill Biosystems Inc., which is focused on modifying a plant’s genetics to create a more efficient photosynthesis process, which in turn leads to better performance and bigger yields.

“(Plants) produce more biomass as a result of that efficiency,” he said, which is key for farmers, especially in Third World countries. About 500 million small farms exist in those countries, compared with about 2.2 million in the U.S., he said.

“Imagine if those 500 million small farmers had a new edge on dealing with the stresses of the environment, of drought or rain or temperature or insects or whatever. If they had a new tool to do that on 500 million farms, the impact would be phenomenal,” Helmstetter said.

TechAccel also is paying attention to consumer trends in agriculture and animal health.

“The public perception and adoption of things drives what you can produce and what you can sell,” he said. “There’s not much value in producing something if the public is not going to buy it. So you have to listen to the public, but as importantly, you have to educate the public.”

The use of antibiotics in animals is a hot topic among consumers, who are leery of their use. So TechAccel is on the hunt for alternatives, whether it’s a vaccine to prevent disease or a more effective treatment. Two of TechAccel’s pending investments, which are in the final due diligence phase, are tied to vaccine platforms.

“We’re very excited about the fact that one of them is a local company. They fit in this area of protecting animals and animal health with some real novel technologies,” he said.


Read the full article at the KCBJ website


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