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Agriculture poses a major opportunity for entrepreneurs to make money and do good, but relatively few have ventured into the space.

To bolster innovation, the state of Tennessee is funding a business accelerator, which is open to anyone with the seeds of an idea, as well as to established companies. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R.) frequently makes promises to the press that the state will be “number one” for agricultural growth. According to a statement, the accelerator is a “response to the challenge.”

Up to eight companies will be selected for the intensive six-month program and will receive mentorship and guidance from agriculturalists and bioscience experts. The entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to pitch to investors on graduating from the accelerator.

Related: Interested in agriculture startups? Read here about Fquare, a company that helps investors manage their land investment portfolio.

The program’s focus is diverse, and entrepreneurs are encouraged to tackle ideas related to precision software, grain handling and storage, food processing, tablet apps, livestock nutrition, crop production, and more.

The overarching goal for the accelerator is to develop sustainable sources of food for a growing global population. “The agricultural innovation accelerator will create new synergies and opportunities for our region to address these global issues, while working locally to create an entrepreneurial culture in our rural area,” said Carol Reed, executive director of The Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center.

However, the entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to impact rural farming communities in their own backyard. Tennessee has a poverty rate of 15 percent, the ninth highest in the United States. Some of the most rural areas have poverty rates in the critical levels.

According to Steve Bares, executive director of Memphis Bioworks Foundation, improving the efficiency of agricultural production will “connect rural production with Memphis’ urban industrial and logistics assets.”

The accelerator was formed through a partnership between the Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center and the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes bioscience businesses. The regional partners claim the accelerator has attracted quite a bit of local interest, with over 50 entrepreneurs showing up to a kick-off event this week, held in Milan, Tennessee, a small city with acres of productive farmland.

Applications for the program will be accepted through July 17. Interested in further info? Email Carol [dot] Reed [at] NWTDD [dot]org.

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