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Woodland’s Lab@AgStart will provide innovation opportunities in fields of health, agriculture

 Lab and co-working space to open early 2021, adding more research positions to the region

In September, AgStart, a “nonprofit incubator” that helps increase the growth of food tech and agricultural companies and “strengthens the region’s innovative ecosystem,” announced the creation of Lab@AgStart.

An AgStart press release described Lab@AgStart as “a unique, broad-based public-private collaboration to fund a new, shared-use innovation incubator in Woodland supporting innovators and startup companies” in the fields of health, food and agriculture.

Woodland Business Engagement and Marketing Manager Stephanie Burgos explained via email that Lab@AgStart will have almost 4,800 square feet of lab space including a food and wet lab as well as co-working space. 

“The location and amenities associated with this shared-use innovation incubator will fill a longtime and growing need for lab space within the Sacramento Valley,” Burgos said via email. 

The collaboration with Yolo County, the City of Woodland, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and other private donors will have the potential to support many innovations, according to the press release.

“Examples of innovations that the Lab@AgStart could support include environmentally-friendly biocontrol products for agriculture, new drought-resistant crops, and new food-as-medicine ingredients,” the press release reads. 

Lab@AgStart will be able to open in early 2021, according to John Selep, the president of AgTech Innovation Alliance, a nonprofit organization and sponsor for AgStart.

“When it opens in early 2021, the Lab@AgStart facility will be the largest shared-use wet-lab facility for startup companies in the entire Central Valley region,” Selep said. “Construction on the improvements necessary to outfit the lab will commence this fall and the Lab@AgStart should be ready for occupancy in the first quarter of 2021.”

The idea for Lab@AgStart originated two years ago due to a shortage of research facilities in the Sacramento region, according to Burgos.

“A front-page article in the Sacramento Business Journal two years ago had triggered conversations about the lack of available lab space to support innovative startups and their commercialization efforts,” Burgos said via email. “Conversations with Federal Economic Development Administration officials began in earnest starting in April 2019. Detailed conversations with startup entrepreneur stakeholders, economic analyses, and formal proposals, began soon afterward.”

Lab@AgStart will allow scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to innovate in the health, food and ag fields, while also demonstrating “what Woodland and Yolo County have to offer,” according to Burgos.

AgStart’s website describes that innovation in the fields of food technology and agriculture “drive high-value jobs and economic growth in the Sacramento region despite increased energy, environmental and labor regulation, water and labor shortages, and changing consumer preferences.”

Burgos described the importance of Lab@AgStart’s communal facilities, which will encourage researchers to work together. 

“A key component of the Lab is that it is a SHARED space, meaning that occupant businesses will have the unique opportunity to interact and collaborate with other innovators,” Burgos said via email.

The main goal of the program is to support innovators and startups in these fields. A long-term goal of Lab@AgStart, however, is also to show that there is demand for more lab spaces to justify expanding Lab@AgStart and other such facilities.

“Through The Food Front—our City of Woodland-led initiative—we make it a priority to celebrate the sustainable, local, and innovative actions of our existing 190+ food and ag businesses,” Burgos said. “Within this same mission, we also support actions such as the Lab@AgStart, which will foster opportunities to help existing companies expand their operations and welcome in new innovators.”

Ultimately, Burgos explained that the collaboration will help increase innovation in the fields of food, agriculture and health.

“We look forward to seeing these innovators thrive and benefit from our existing network of ag leaders and bring new ideas to the table to accelerate innovation within our region,” Burgos said.

 Written by: Shraddha Jhingan city@theaggie.org


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