The Ottawa County Planning Commission is looking to the future of agriculture in the region with a new study to determine the feasibility of a business incubator to nurture new agricultural technology startups.
"A couple of years back, our citizen survey said economic development is something the county should get involved in," says Ottawa County Economic Coordinator Josh Spencer. "One way [to do that] is to focus on a strength in the area, and that's agriculture. There's no organization that focuses specifically on the agricultural technology market."
With large agricultural supply companies in the region, such as Zeeland Farm Services
, and national and global food processors like Heinz, Sara Lee and Boar's Head
, Spencer says there could be plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop innovations in technology and equipment for the industry.
Ottawa County commissioned Florida-based Greenwood Consulting
to conduct a study to determine if there is a demand for a business incubator of this type, its sustainability and a possible location for it. Interested persons can complete the online survey here
until August 24, 2012.
"We think there's a big opportunity in the food safety industry for new technology around how food is packaged and shipped, or different types of containers," Spencer says. "Also any type of machinery used in agricultural production or food processing. Farming is starting to use more equipment that uses GPS technology and apps that allow farmers to use phones and electronic devices to identify diseases in plants. We're hoping ideas like that come about."
The feasibility study is funded by a $20,000 USDA grant and $20,000 from Ottawa County.
Progress reports on the study, which will be complete and presented to the planning commission in October, and on the proposed incubator will be posted on the Ottawa Planning Commission Facebook page, here
Source: Josh Spencer, Ottawa County Planning Department
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor