Monday March 30, 2015 0 comments
By Steve Porter
Agriculture doesn't usually rise to the top of a discussion about innovation, but an ag innovation summit held in mid-March demonstrated that ag-related innovation is alive and thriving in Colorado.
The Colorado State University Ag Innovation Summit, held March 18-20, featured more than 80 speakers and panelists and revealed many ways that innovation is permeating the state's ag sector, particularly in Northern Colorado.
A series of speakers - including Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper - noted the growing ag cluster along the Front Range urban corridor and especially from Denver north to Fort Collins and Greeley.
Gregory Graff, associated professor in CSU's ag and resource economics department, told attendees that Colorado ranks third in the nation - behind much bigger Texas and California - in research funding by the USDA.
Graff said the state was granted more than 5,000 U.S. patents between 1990 and 2012, with most of the ag-related patents and agricultural scholarly publications originating along the northern Front Range.
Addressing the summit, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock cited a planned $856 million redevelopment of the National Western Stock Show facility in Denver into a showcase ag campus with ag research space and incubation space for startup ag-related businesses in a year-round complex as another example of an emphasis on Colorado ag innovation.
CSU is a partner in that planned redevelopment project.
For those still not convinced, take a look at a CSU report issued last fall called "The Emergence of an Innovation Cluster in the Agricultural Value Chain Along Colorado's Front Range."
Bill Stoufer, COO of food giant Ardent Mills, said the company chose Denver as its new corporate headquarters in 2013 because of several factors, not the least of which being its long-standing collaboration with CSU wheat scientists and linkages to local growers.
Those scientists developed a new strain of wheat called Snowmass that Stoufer said is helping Ardent Mills create "a whole new line of products for us."
Craig Beyrouty, CSU dean of ag sciences, said the summit was organized to connect innovators with investors and also to raise awareness about ag being one of the state's top economic drivers and something everyone should be concerned about.
"What we have to do is make people know they are all connected to the food system," Beyrouty said.
We hope CSU and the ag sector will make the first-time summit an annual gathering to keep spreading that most important message.