British Agritech Innovators See Tremendous Opportunity in Missouri despite COVID-19

In February 2020, the Ag Coast of America welcomed a delegation of scientists, entrepreneurs and business leaders from Agri-TechE, one of the premiere agriculture technology associations in the United Kingdom (UK), along with British Government officials. Today, as the world begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, that work continues with shared webinars, ongoing collaboration, support for the UK/US Free Trade Agreement and other efforts to bring the UK and Missouri economies closer together.

“I had a sense the individual parts were really strong in the agritech ecosystem here,” said Dr. Belinda Clarke, Director for Agri-TechE. “I think what’s come across since we got here is the connectivity between them. It’s really impressive that there’s been a unified approach with a master plan to make agritech a viable thing in the St. Louis region.”

A roundtable discussion with the visiting group brought together various representatives of the Missouri agritech ecosystem, including Climate Corp, Bunge North America and Yield Lab, which provides venture funding for early stage agritech companies. The robust discussion began with the visiting delegates sharing their initial impressions of the St. Louis region. Those impressions were overwhelmingly positive, with the visitors citing the nurturing climate for startups, the deliberate approach to building an agritech ecosystem, the willingness of the people they met to directly engage, and even the buildings and public spaces in the region’s innovation districts fostering opportunities for collaboration.

Sam Watson-Jones, a principal with the British-based Small Robot Company, which is reimagining farming with robotics and artificial intelligence, noted that his company was thinking about St. Louis as an entry point to the U.S. market even before signing up for the trip with Agri-TechE. He was particularly interested in learning more about the availability of talent.

Also among those in attendance at the roundtable was Alan Gogbashian, the British Consul General to the Midwest, who complimented the collaboration between Agri-TechE and the St. Louis region as remarkable and exceptional and something that his department wants to support.

“Now that the U.K has left the EU and we [have started] negotiations with the U.S. on a free trade agreement, agriculture will be an important part of the discussion, and we can’t discuss ag without discussing the Midwest,” said Gogbashian. “I believe future collaboration between the Missouri and UK agri-tech ecosystems has the potential to be exceptional and remarkable and I am keen to do all I can to support it.”

“These visits are clearly helping parties on both sides to make many important connections and fostering meaningful discussions centered on identifying additional opportunities for collaboration, particularly around the areas of agriculture technology, agri-business and plant science,” said Tim Nowak, Executive Director of the World Trade Center St. Louis.

“We’re thrilled that the impressive agtech ecosystem that has been carefully cultivated in the St. Louis region is being so well received by the UK delegates, and we’re excited that they see value in what the Ag Coast of America has to offer,” said Janet Wilding, who heads the 39 North Innovation District for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

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