Two startups created from University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture technologies recently participated in the AgLaunch Cultivate Appalachia Bootcamp, a workshop co-sponsored by UTRF that is designed to demonstrate business fundamentals and training on innovations within the agriculture industry.

Members of the Cultivate Appalachia BootCamp participating in the program. Photo courtesy of AgLaunch.

The Cultivate Appalachia Bootcamp is the first official program of the Appalachian AgriFood Innovation Cluster, coordinated by AgLaunch for the Small Business Administration (SBA). UTRF is a proud co-sponsor of the bootcamp, alongside the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Sync.Space, The Biz Foundry, InvestSWVA, the South Carolina Research Authority, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Tennessee Tech, the National Black Growers Council, and the North Carolina Biotech Center, with support from Launch Tennessee.

“UTRF has been a supporter of AgLaunch since its inception. I’m also a member of the Appalachian AgriFood Cluster Steering Committee,” said UTRF Vice President Maha Krishnamurthy. “We’re so proud that two UTRF startups created from university technology participated in the Cultivate Appalachia Bootcamp.”

“We’ve had a long and productive relationship with UTRF,” said Jim Biggs, Executive Director, KEC. “Partnering with them through the Cultivate Appalachia Bootcamp is one of the ways we’ve really been able to highlight how the university is creating some of the most innovative and beneficial technologies in the world for the agricultural community. We appreciate their participation and the opportunity to work closely with them for the benefit of all companies in the program.”

Meg Staton pitching her startup at the Cultivate Appalachia pitch competition

“UTRF was an integral partner on the Cultivate Appalachia Bootcamp, from helping to recruit great companies, to collaborating on programming, to coming in-person to speak with startups about intellectual property and collaboration with the university,” said Lilly Tench, Appalachian AgriFood Innovation Cluster Lead. “Beyond the bootcamp, Maha Krishnamurthy and Kusum Rathore have been key supporters of the Appalachian AgriFood Innovation Cluster, both participating in the Steering Committee discussions to help guide  agricultural innovation initiatives across the Appalachian region.”

The program supports early-stage agriculture startups and prepares them for follow-on programming and resources offered by AgLaunch or AgLaunch partners. Two UTRF startups – Wild Type and X10D – were selected to participate in the program.

Abdullah Almsaeed, Lead IT Administrative Analyst III, is the Co-Creator of Wild Type (previously called AgricultureApps) with Margaret Staton, UT Institute of Agriculture Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Almsaeed serves as a web developer and research associate in Staton’s research lab.

Meg Staton and Abdullah Almasaeed, pictured left, at the Cultivate Appalachia Bootcamp. Photo courtesy of AgLaunch.

Wild Type is a custom software development business that specializes in advancing the management and analysis of agricultural data. Its mission is to help scientists, researchers and industry professionals better utilize big data for state-of-the-art research and on-farm management. The startup is currently developing a crop variety trial tool that will allow researchers to upload data and share it with farmers nearly immediately, streamlining the traditionally lengthy process.

“We’re excited to get going – we’ve already started developing it,” said Almsaeed. “We’re going to have a minimal viable product within a month or so. We can’t wait to get the word out there and get people to test it.”

Justin Rhinehart, UT Extension Assistant Dean for Agriculture and Natural Resources and Community Economic Development, co-founded X10D with Les Anderson of the University of Kentucky. X10D is a software as a service (SaaS) mobile-and-web solution with three primary components: a decentralized educational content delivery platform that makes communication between UT Extension and end-users more efficient, community connection for users and content creators and a data-management. The record-keeping component enables data collection that will improve users’ management decisions and streamline creator-to-user consultations, as well as enable data aggregation that will provide tremendous value to the industry. It is scalable to other agricultural and non-ag sectors.

Justin Rhinehart

“We work with our extension agents and farmers in local communities,” said Rhinehart. “We saw the need and lived the need for a lot of years and wanted to innovate something that would address that need more effectively.”

Both Almsaeed and Rhinehart are appreciative of UTRF’s support and encouragement to pursue the Cultivate Appalachia Bootcamp.

“I think it’s really amazing to work with a technology transfer office to understand and develop startups. It’s not traditionally been something that university extension services look to or put a lot of emphasis on. I think the marketplace has some opportunities for amazing innovation, and UT Extension is in a unique position to identify and develop those innovations” said Rhinehart. “I hope more faculty and staff understand how they can work with UTRF and see how their ideas could be beneficial for more people.”