Ottawa County launches innovative ag-tech business incubator

Ottawa County, Michigan recently announced the opening of the Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator. The Incubator, a nonprofit corporation, will specialize in helping farmers and entrepreneurs turn their ag-tech machine, equipment, or software ideas and inventions into successful businesses. The State of Michigan also announces it will make a three-year, $500,000 investment in this first-of-its-kind incubator model to help develop businesses and jobs in the agriculture/technology sector.

The incubator is open to anyone in the state. However, Mark Knudsen, planning and performance improvement director, says the program will be "growing incrementally" and the only limitation on its growth will be the pace at which they can effectively manage all requests that are coming in.

Unlike typical incubators, the Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator does not provide physical building space for its clients. It dedicates almost all of its resources solely to staff who help commercialize the client's technology.

When facilities are needed for clients, the Incubator will broker space (office, loading dock, warehouse) on a piecemeal basis from existing landlords in the community. There is no fee for entrepreneurs to use the services if they are selected to be a client in the Incubator. Instead, Incubator clients must agree to return two percent of their gross annual sales to the Incubator. At year 10, entrepreneurs have a buy-out option.

Knudsen says the ideas vary from simple to very complex and are flowing in from both farmers and non-farm entrepreneurs. "We have companies that are building drones, bio-companies, businesses that make different types of equipment that attach to tractors," he says. "It can be as small as a mirror or as large as (a company) that manufactures machines to produce on-farm ethanol."

To learn more the Great Lakes Ag-Tech Business Incubator you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Job News Editor
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