Sustainable America Blog

Ag and Energy Startups Compete in Louisville

Louisville Cleantech Accelerator participants harvest wheatberries

Participants in the 2013 Louisville Agriculture and Cleantech Accelerator program helped harvest wheatberries at Fox Hollow Farm.

Sustainable America is proud to be a partnering with Village Capital and VentureWell as a sponsor of the 2013 Louisville Agriculture and Cleantech Accelerator program, a sustainable energy and agriculture business competition in Louisville, Kentucky. This competition is seeking the next generation of enterprises focused on technology-driven solutions to the country’s most pressing agriculture and energy issues. Here’s an update on this exciting program.

In June, a “cohort” of 15 companies, selected from an application of pool of more than 100 aspiring startups, met for their first session in Louisville. The participating companies (listed below) debuted business plans addressing a wide range of sustainability issues ranging from irrigation management for large farms to electric vehicle battery component improvements.

While the businesses competing in the event are all new, the experiences of the entrepreneurs behind the businesses are varied — from recent graduates to those with decades of experience working in industry or running their own businesses. Over the course of four days, the cohort members collaborated on making improvements to their business plans and pitches to potential investors, and received intensive coaching from Joseph Steig and Ross Baird, of VentureWell and Village Capital, respectively. The variety of life and working experiences amongst the cohort members contributed to a rich collaborative learning environment.

The event seeked to build on the agricultural history of the Louisville area and the positive momentum of the local food movement in Louisville. In service of that goal, the group attended a number of networking events with local businesses and capital providers and participated in a panel discussion with Louisville-based investor Benton Keith of Radicle Capital (also a sponsor of the event) and Sustainable America’s Director of Investments Gray Peckham.

The cohort visited entrepreneur-investor Benton Keith’s Fox Hollow Farm, an organic farm and grass-fed beef operation just outside of Louisville. Benton’s wife Maggie, who runs the farm’s vegetable-growing operation, gave a talk about the trials and tribulations that early-stage businesses must overcome and how start-up businesses can play a role in solving those problems. To top it off, members of the group braved humidity and intermittent downpours to complete a service project on the farm, helping to hand-harvest wheatberries!

The group participated in another workshop in late July, and the two winners of the program will be announced in September at Louisville’s growing Idea Festival, a world-class event that attracts leading and highly diverse thinkers from across the nation and around the globe to explore and celebrate innovation, imagination, and cutting-edge ideas. The winners will be selected by the participants themselves, and each will receive a $50,000 investment in their companies.

Like Sustainable America, Village Capital and VentureWell seek to find, evaluate and fund deserving early-stage businesses that focus on sustainability. Sustainable America believes in the power of markets and entrepreneurs to affect positive change, and we are excited to watch these nascent businesses mature over the course of the program. We look forward to continuing to work with these energetic entrepreneurs and to helping fund their start-up businesses, all in service of solving some of the critical problems that our nation faces.

Here’s a list of all the participating businesses:

Aisle Won
aisle-won.com
Aisle Won is a mobile support program connecting sources of affordable, healthy, locally grown food with people who want to buy it.

AquaBella Organic Solutions
Sebastopol, CA
ABOS focus is on reducing the dependence of agricultural/aquiculture on chemicals that harm the environment by providing biological alternatives.

BlocPower
New York, NY
blocpower.org
BlocPower will market, finance and install energy efficiency and solar retrofits in churches, non-profits, and small businesses in inner cities. BlocPower connects impact investors to online project finance opportunities.

Future Tech Farm
Grand Rapids, MI
futuretechfarm.com
Future Tech Farm is a portfolio of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) technologies. Our purpose is to grow food as efficiently as possible.

Garden Fresh Farms
Maplewood, MN
gardenfreshfarms.com
Garden Fresh Farms developed equipment and methods for sustainable indoor agriculture. Garden Fresh Farms is an urban farm and a manufacturer of patent pending indoor agriculture systems that could be deployed around the world.

NOHMs Technologies, Inc.
Lexington, KY
nohms.com
NOHMs Technologies, Inc. is developing materials and manufacturing processes for advanced lithium ion battery electrolyte that enables twice the energy and runtime for half the cost in consumer electronics and electric vehicles via sales and licensing business model.

Project e[X]
San Francisco, CA
Video
Project e[X] is bringing classroom technology back to relevance in the developing world. Our portable power supply device harnesses the technology & value from ‘used’ electric vehicles to power-up classrooms in these countries.

Re-Nuble
Washington, DC
re-nuble.com
ReBNuble uses environmental technologies to convert organic waste into clean, renewable energy and cost-effective fertilizer for food institutions that are sold and distributed to local agribusiness and horticultural users.

Remote Cycle
Santiago, Chile
remotecycle.com/story.pdf
RemoteCycle is a management platform that lowers the costs of servicing remote and unbanked consumers. Leveraging mobile banking, the software automates bookkeeping, billing and payment collection processes for energy providers to MFIs in East Africa and India.

Sharps
Seattle, WA
Electronic waste contamination is a growing problem and Sharps has a clean solution.

Shellfish Solutions AS
Trondheim, Norway
shellfishsolutions.com
Shellfish Solutions provides aquaculture and fishery managers with the tools to control when and where to maximize harvest quality.

Smart Farm LLC
Louisville, KY
smartfarm.biz
Smart Farm Systems LLC provides the global agricultural community with state-of-the-art precision irrigation monitoring and control solutions to help conserve energy, reduce ground water consumption, improve crop yields, and reduce equipment maintenance and labor costs.

Solar Site Design
Nashville, TN
solarsitedesign.com
Solar Site Design is a collaborative, cloud-based content management platform that offers a complete project development solution for solar professionals. The mission is to offer the Solar Site Design information technology platform to solar professionals worldwide.

Spensa Technologies
West Lafayette, IN
Developed and marketing a cost effective commercial ag IPM solution by automating the labor intensive and error prone insect monitoring process with novel hardware; Z-Traps and software; MyTraps.com solutions.

SunRWalker
Cambridge, MA
Video
SunBWalker is an inexpensive Solar Energy System for farms. The system generates electricity by boiling water with the sun and generating high-pressure steam.

Tule Technologies
Oakland, CA
tuletechnologies.com
Tule Technologies provides agribusinesses with direct measurements of daily actual crop water use over an entire field using a patent-pending technology.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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