Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
July 12, 2023 | Tom Ballard

“AgLaunch Bootcamp” wraps up Thursday with pitches

During the third day of the event, the teams heard from Charlotte Tolley, Chief Executive Officer of Nourish Knoxville, and Jeff Aiken, Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

The 2023 edition of the “AgLaunch Bootcamp” wraps up Thursday with pitches by each of the participating companies beginning at 5 p.m. at the Techstars space at 465 South Gay Street in downtown Knoxville, just across Union Avenue from the Embassy Suites Hotel. To register, click here.

Wednesday’s sessions focused on the all-important customer discovery process, branding for food and agriculture start-ups, a feedback session after each of the start-up entrepreneurs gave a preliminary pitch, and a visit to Seven Springs Farm and Winery in Union County.

One of the participants who traveled the greatest distance was Sudharsan Dwaraknath (pictured right) of Quorum, a New York City-based company that bioengineers crop microbiomes to enhance nutrient acquisition, stress tolerance, and carbon sequestration for every crop on every farm, worldwide. He’s one of two Co-Founders and said this was his first time in the Volunteer State.

Ahead of lunch, the teams also heard from Charlotte Tolley, Chief Executive Officer of Nourish Knoxville, and Jeff Aiken, Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. Nourish Knoxville is a nonprofit organization cultivating healthy communities by supporting relationships between local farmers, producers, and the public. It is probably best known for the several farmers’ markets that it runs in Knox County.

During Aiken’s brief presentation, he noted that he understands the challenges and opportunities that farmers face. Aiken is a third-generation farmer – beef cattle, hay, corn, and tobacco – from Washington County who previously served as President of the Tennessee Farm Bureau for six years.

“Agriculture and forestry are an $80 billion industry in Tennessee,” he told the attendees as he embraced the tagline of Memphis-based AgLaunch: “Farms of the Future. Transformed Communities.”

Aiken asked the entrepreneurs to answer two questions. One was how many mouths could one farmer feed from his/her crops in 1963, the year he was born? The answer was 30. Then, Aiken asked what the number would be today? The answer was about 170 mouths.

“Technology and innovation have come along so quickly,” he said.

Aiken added that labor, profitability, and loss of high-value farmland are the three biggest challenges that farmers face.

The annual event is hosted by Memphis-based AgLaunch and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center with support from a number of other partners including Sync Space Entrepreneur CenterThe Biz FoundryInvestSWVASouth Carolina Research AuthorityKentucky Department of AgricultureEconomic Development Partnership of AlabamaUniversity of Tennessee Research FoundationTennessee Tech UniversityNational Black Growers CouncilNorth Carolina Biotechnology Center, and Launch Tennessee.

Don’t Miss Out on the Southeast’s Latest Entrepreneurial, Business, & Tech News!

Sign-up to get the Teknovation Newsletter in your inbox each morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No, thanks!