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Posted on: October 18, 2021

Beef Alliance Startup Challenge Attracts International Ag Innovators to Kansas

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Innovation in agriculture is key to safely and effectively feeding the world. That innovation happens on many levels — from individual farms embracing new technologies to distributors incorporating next-generation logistics.

The Manhattan-based Beef Alliance is interested in a very specific portion of the global food supply chain: feeding livestock. To advance the field of cattle feeding, the Beef Alliance launched a competition for startups in the industry called the Beef Alliance Startup Challenge. The challenge provided innovators the opportunity to pitch their products and technologies to feedyards and network with potential investors. The challenge was open to businesses working on all aspects of cattle feeding, with special focus on solutions in key areas, including animal health, animal nutrition and production efficiency, food safety and livestock monitoring and traceability.

“As we look at the big challenges we face — whether it’s continuously improving environmental stewardship, finding new ways to care for animals and keep them healthy, or to run efficient and sustainable cattle feedyards — we know we’re going to need innovative solutions,” Scott Whitefoot, Beef Alliance chairman, told AFN. “The thing that makes [this Challenge] unique is that when startups pitch to the Beef Alliance, they’re pitching their product directly to their potential customers.… This event also allows us to give the creators of technology a chance to continue developing their solution in an actual production setting through the pilot.” 

The first ever Beef Alliance Startup Challenge took place in March 2021. The competition attracted dozens of companies to the region. Competitors came from across the U.S., as well as Australia, Argentina and Finland. After participating in the challenge, several companies are looking into establishing satellite offices in the region to be co-located with Kansas State University’s unparalleled research facilities and the heart of the cattle industry. 

“We continue to be impressed by the incredibly sophisticated solutions coming out of the Greater Manhattan region, as well as the international network that’s found a center of gravity here. Competitions like this serve as talent attractors and support networks for the ag industry as a whole. We commend the Beef Alliance for creating this much-needed hub in the sector,” said Daryn Soldan, director of economic development for the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, a founding GMEP partner.

Joining the lineup of finalists was BlockTrust Network of Manhattan, Kansas, and College Station, Texas. BlockTrust Network has developed a platform where associations and programs can upload and access data tied to cattle’s unique RFID tags. The power in the platform is that it makes data available from multiple points up and down the supply chain, providing greater transparency where information was previously siloed. 

Other projects in the inaugural competition ranged from technology-driven data platforms to artificial intelligence that monitors and manages cattle to biologics that reduce methane emissions.

The 2021 grand prize went to Resilient Biotics of North Carolina’s Research Triangle and California’s San Francisco Bay Area. The startup uses data analytics to identify genetic elements and microbial strains, enabling them to design highly targeted therapeutics for more precise treatment of animal diseases. 

“It's fantastic to see the biggest players in the industry not only supporting new innovation, but also provide a path for startups like Resilient to interact directly with the end customer,” Christopher Belnap, Resilient Biotics CEO and co-founder said in a press release. “As evident from this award, the industry is hungry for new products and innovation to promote cattle health, and our objective is to meet that demand.”

With its Startup Challenge, the Beef Alliance is helping build the ranks of other ag innovators in the area like U.S. CattleTrace, HitchPin, Heartland Innovations and MS Biotec, making the Greater Manhattan region a hotspot for advancements in all sectors of agriculture.

To learn more about how your business can take advantage of the animal health and agricultural assets in the region, please contact Jason Smith at jason@manhattan.org or Rebecca Robinson at spexarth@ksu.edu.

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