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Next up for Indiana biotech: Feed the world

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Even though the potential payoff for health care innovation is less certain these days, the business case for new ways to produce more food has never been stronger.

That’s the analysis that lies behind BioCrossroads’ new report, “Food and Agricultural Innovation: 21st Century Opportunities for Indiana,” released Thursday by the Indianapolis-based life sciences development group.

Rapid population growth in Africa and Asia will demand a doubling of worldwide food production from current levels by 2050, according to one estimate from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

That means innovations to improve crop yields or to reduce the use of natural resources such as water and land is imperative, said report author Beth Bechdol, an Ice Miller LLP attorney and former official at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

Bechdol concluded that the places best positioned to produce those innovations are those that already have substantial amounts of ag production and ag research.

“It is the combination of traditional agricultural production capacity and the agricultural-related science and technology assets Indiana possesses that make it uniquely positioned to address and capitalize on the larger global trends that are going to reshape the agricultural industry over the next several decades,” Bechdol wrote.

Most of the rest of Bechdol’s report catalogs Indiana’s assets in those two categories.

Indiana’s biggest assets in ag research and development are Indianapolis-based Dow AgroSciences LLC, the Greenfield-based Elanco Animal Health division of Eli Lilly and Co., and Purdue University.

Those institutions are already doing their own work to commercialize ag-related products. But there are also some budding assets that could help in those processes or perhaps take technologies discovered by the large companies and turn them into startups.

For example, Bechdol noted, West Lafayette-based Cook Biotech recently formed a company called Cook Animal Health that is looking to commercialize ag technologies discovered by others. And an increasing number of venture capital firms, including Carmel-based Cultivian Ventures, are interested in funding ag tech companies.

On the production side, Indiana is the United States’ ninth-largest producer of crops and livestock, according to 2010 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In all, agriculture and ag-related businesses produce goods and services worth $16 billion statewide. They employ nearly one in five Hoosier workers and pay total wages of more than $4.3 billion, according to the BioCrossroads report. In addition, farmers generate an additional $1 billion in annual income for themselves.

But Bechdol and BioCrossroads want to create a separate group like BioCrossroads to get all those businesses talking to one another, so they can identify the best ways to advance the industry and spawn new participants in it.

“Indiana food and agricultural innovation stakeholders are well-positioned for their own business growth and expansion,” she wrote. “Greater coordination and collaboration among the various agricultural leaders could, however, foster even more economic development and help to reshape Indiana’s agricultural landscape, but it will require greater collective attention and engagement.”

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  1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

  2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

  4. downtown in the same area as O'malia's. 350 E New York. Not sure that another one could survive. I agree a Target is needed d'town. Downtown Philly even had a 3 story Kmart for its downtown residents.

  5. Indy-area residents... most of you have no idea how AMAZING Aurelio's is. South of Chicago was a cool pizza place... but it pales in comparison to the heavenly thin crust Aurelio's pizza. Their deep dish is pretty good too. My waistline is expanding just thinking about this!

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