The Triangle as an AgTech hub? Why not, say local industry experts
by WRAL TechWire staff — May 24, 2019
RALEIGH – Fancy the Triangle as an AgTech hub?
It sure looks like it could be heading that way, according to some industry insiders.
At least, that was the overriding sentiment at this year’s 23rd annual State of the Region hosted by the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP) on Thursday.
More than 1000 people packed into the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center for the event that included an all-star lineup of local experts.
Among them was Adrian Percy, the chief technology officer of Finistere Ventures and an independent director for early-stage companies in AgTech.
During his presentation, he discussed the growing opportunity for the region to claim itself as a “true AgTech hub, which no region in the world currently has the rights.
His reasons: the presence of major agribusiness, a vibrant startup community, access to capital (although limited), an excellent talent pool, new infrastructure, elite academic institutions, NC State’s Plant Science Institute. The list goes on and on.
His observations come at a pivotal time as the region competes as one of three finalists for a project that would move 700 jobs within the US Department of Agriculture from the Washington, D.C. area.
However, Ryan Combs, RTRP’s executive director, remained optimistic, pointing to the conference’s turnout.
“Our event attendance was record breaking, which speaks volumes about our community’s passion and commitment to assist in driving our region forward,” he told WRAL TechWire.
Other speakers included NC State College of Ag and Life Sciences Dean Richard Linton, Syngenta RTP Site Head and Head of Trait Research and Developmental Biology Ian Jepson, and Geoffrey Duyk of Florida investment firm Circularis Partners. They spoke about growing agriculture through innovation.
Meanwhile, a panel including centering on the AgTech workforce featured a selection of community college leaders in North Carolina: NC Community College System President Peter Hans, Wake Tech Community College President Scott Ralls and Piedmont Community College President Pamela Senegal.
They confirmed steps as being taken to prepare tomorrow’s workforce.
More than 700,000 North Carolinians are currently enrolled in the NC Community College System, they said.
Piedmont Community College in Person County has also created an Associates of Science in Agribusiness Technology program to prepare students to work in AgTech, while Wake County citizens voted to invest $349 million in new Wake Tech workforce facilities.