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Ag Innovation Update
In This Issue
A love affair with beef jerkey
Q&A with AURI Board Member
Survey shows dramatic change in nursery and landscape industry
Venture capital key to agbioscience industry growth
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June 26-27, 2014

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May 2014
As do most couples, Mike Davis and Mali Kouanchao have a unique love story. While the Tennessee Native and the Laotian- American were falling in love with each other, Davis also fell in love with something else-his in-laws' Lao cooking. And while all of the family recipes were unique and tasty, it was Aunt Thaipet's beef jerky that was the winner of his tastebuds.  


   > Read the full story

Q&A with AURI Board Member John Gilbertson 

Each month's Ag Innovation Update will feature a short Q&A with one member of AURI's Board of Directors.  


About John Gilbertson

John Gilberston represents Minnesota Farm Bureau on the AURI Board of Directors. Gilberston is from Puposky, Minn., and represents county Farm Bureaus from North Central and Northeast Minnesota. John first purchased his farm in 1969 after he was discharged from the army. Then, in 1970 he purchased a dairy herd and starting his milking operation. In 1978, he built a new comfort stall dairy barn, only to lose most of the herd and barn in a fire in 1987. Gilbertson continued milking and operating a 50-sow feeder pig operation until 1996. Today, he and his son and grandchildren operate a cow-calf and backgrounding angus herd. Gilbertson and his wife, Cheryl, have three children and seven grandchildren.


Why did you initially want to serve on AURI's board?
I wanted to serve on AURI's board because their work is very interesting. Even more important, I was interested in who they serve: small businesses.


What value does AURI bring to Minnesota that you're most proud of?
AURI gives individuals and small businesses the opportunity to create new products and processes, or improved products and processes, on a small scale in a way no other organization does. In today's world everything has to be big or no one is interested in them but AURI helps these small businesses.


What are the top 1-3 major accomplishments or "big wins" you've seen at AURI during your time on the board?

One of the most exciting projects I've seen is the business that developed a new fire retardant-EarthClean. There are so many exciting projects that can make a big difference in so many peoples' lives.

garden-ball.jpg A recent survey, sponsored by the Minnesota Landscape and Nursery Association (MNLA) and AURI, found that nursery and landscape businesses in Minnesota have experienced substantial change in the last 5 to 10 years.  A major

economic recession hit the housing sector particularly hard, and with it a boom in retail nursery  goods and landscaping services in the early part of the previous decade dissolved...Growth has been slow, which is expected due to the correlation between landscape and nursery business and the housing market, but members overall have positive outlooks for future growth. MNLA members create over 42,000 full-time, part-time, and seasonal jobs each year.  Their activities led to over $1.9 billion in direct sales.


> View the complete report 

Venture capital key to agbioscience industry growth  
Increasing venture capital is one of the most critical requirements in advancing agbioscience, says the Minnesota Agbioscience Strategy report by the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice. AURI's Rod Larkins shared this opportunity and its potential impact on economic growth with the Gophers Angel Network--a network of accredited investors seeking to invest capital and expertise in early stage Minnesota businesses. "A venture capital community dedicated to and focused on opportunities in agriculture will have a very significant impact on our ability to establish and retain leadership in this critical industry," says Larkins.

"Ag technology is a tremendous area of opportunity and traditional venture capital firms are typically not equipped to understand or capitalize upon it," explains Brad Saeger, business developer with Ag Ventures Alliance. "Since our members are farmers, they realize benefits to their rural communities from participating in ag technology ventures beyond just the potential to earn a return. A vibrant revitalized rural economy is an important core value to Ag Ventures Alliance.


"Minnesota inventiveness, both public and private, in all areas of agricultural technologies - from crop development to animal raising - is strong and presents a number of very promising early stage investment opportunities," says Doug Fisher of Acala Partners. "Not only are they good investments, fostering these technologies will benefit the economy, the environment, and farmers and consumers, both local and global.  We look forward to working with AURI and other key stakeholders to build a strong and knowledgeable agricultural venture investment community to support the goals set out in the Minnesota Agbioscience Strategy report."