Startup with UTA connections named to Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator’s Agtech Program

Arlington-based SolGro is one of five companies to be selected to participate in the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) in the incubator’s first agtech cohort.

IN2 is a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The news release said that SolGro is an agtech startup developing innovative light-converting greenhouse canopies that can help produce food more sustainably.

In selecting SolGro for the inaugural agtech cohort, IN2’s goal is to advance technologies that can reduce agriculture’s carbon, energy and water impact, which collectively account for as much as 70% of water and 14% of energy usage worldwide.

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SolGro will receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding to test, validate and advance its technologies with experts at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (Danforth Center), the world’s largest independent plant science institute.

“The biggest challenge startups face is validation, and our entry into the IN2 program is a really big step for SolGro, especially since we can work so closely with the Danforth Center,” said Tyler Sickels, CEO and co-founder of SolGro. “We’re so honored to be one of only five companies in the country selected for this program, and we’re excited to make the most of this exceptional opportunity.”

IN2 started in 2014 with an initial focus on supporting scalable solutions to improve energy efficiency in commercial building and expanded its focus in 2018 to advance innovations in agtech, or the application of software and hardware technology to farming.

“Wells Fargo is excited to be supporting and nurturing innovations that will ultimately lead to more sustainable and productive agriculture,” Ramsay Huntley, Clean Technology and Innovation Philanthropy program officer for Wells Fargo, said in the news release.

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“As one of the largest lenders to the agriculture and agricultural technology sectors, Wells Fargo will bring its expertise to the table in de-risking these early-stage startups and help move them to the next level,” he said.

“The companies involved with IN2 might be small, but they’re solving big problems,” said Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at NREL. “SolGro was an extremely strong applicant, and we cannot wait to see the strides they make by being a part of our program.”

Claire Kinlaw, director of Innovation Commercialization at the Danforth Center, said the center has been a driver in the growth of agriculture innovation for 20 years.

“We look forward to leveraging the IN2 model and working with these early-stage companies to accelerate their technologies to commercialization,” Kinlaw said.

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SolGro was developed in partnership with the University of Texas at Arlington and has created plastics that amplify sunlight into the wavelengths that are best for plant growth. These greenhouse materials passively increase crop production, decrease harvest time and improve overall plant health the news release said.

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) is a $30 million technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation. Co-administered by and housed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, founded in 1998, is a nonprofit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science.

– FWBP Staff