Lincoln, Neb. —In collaboration with the Institute of Agricultural and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, the Combine AgriFood Incubator has built a unique public/ private partnership to fuel entrepreneurship and build vibrant communities in Nebraska.
The Combine, an Invest Nebraska initiative, launched in October of 2019 and has since worked to provide the capital, connections and curriculum to help early-stage agricultural tech and food entrepreneurs across the state.
“IANR brings the high-level expertise,” said Matt Foley, director of the Combine AgriFood Incubator with Invest Nebraska.
“Most important is IANR’s knowledge base, expertise and workforce development potential. We’ve had a couple out of state companies interested in partnering with us because they know there are brilliant professors, students and academia in Lincoln because of IANR – it’s a huge calling card for us,” Foley said.
Since the combine launched in 2019, it has accepted applications on a rolling basis, whether that be from a company, or just one person with a passion to solve a problem. Throughout the pandemic, the Combine has continued to connect the talents of academic exports in IANR, the Invest Nebraska network and Nebraska entrepreneurs to create a unique culture of innovation in food and agriculture.
Located in the Rise Building at Nebraska Innovation Campus, the Combine has a physical incubation space, where undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff can work alongside other motivated like-minded entrepreneurial individuals in a shared space.
The program is also on demand digitally across the state via Zoom or in-person visits to farm or ranches where COVID-19 precautions are taken.
In additional to Invest Nebraska programming, the Combine also offers monthly Nebraska food and ag technology digital meetings to provide networking and educational resources for anyone in the region interested in the future of food and agriculture.
“In one sense COVID-19 has been a blessing because it forced us to really focus on what we’re good at,” said Foley.
“At the end of the day, what we really need to execute well is helping companies, involving partners and finding way to connect their talents and knowledge with our companies.”
The Combine works with Birds Eye Robotics, which recently launched a pilot program partnering with poultry producers across the Midwest. Birds Eye Robotics works to provide robotic solutions to improve bird welfare, while at the same time reducing labor demand and costs for farmers. The company worked closely with animal science faculty for their expertise in animal nutrition and well-being.
Another company the Combine assists is Corral, which works to help ranchers optimize their operations by utilizing software to improve pasture utilization, as well as tracking and record management.
Corral founder Jack Keating has sought advice from Nebraska Extension specialists from the Panhandle and across the state with expertise in the beef production and grazing strategies.
Through the Combine AgriFood Incubator, Rural Prosperity Nebraska, Nebraska Extension and others, IANR is doubling down on both the support and partnerships it provides to rural Nebraska, as well as to its rural research programs.
Natalie Jones | IANR Media