The Lilly Endowment has awarded a $4.2 million, two-year grant to AgriNovus Indiana, an initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, in order to “support strategic programs to meet the education, talent and entrepreneurship needs of the growing agbiosciences sector in Indiana.”
AgriNovus, which is one of six economic development initiatives of CICP, is focused on advancing the sector through building public awareness, building up the industry’s workforce, researching growth opportunities to support entrepreneurship, and developing partnerships with allied groups.
According to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the state has 2,682 so-called agbioscience firms, which include sectors such as animal health and nutrition, agricultural/food equipment and production technology, aquaculture and aquatic systems, precision agriculture sensing and information technology, plant science and crop production, and value-added food and nutrition products.
“Indiana’s agbiosciences sector has a $16 billion impact on the state and employs 75,000 Hoosiers,” said Beth Bechdol, president and CEO of AgriNovus Indiana. “AgriNovus is now perfectly positioned to design and launch impactful programs around public education and awareness, talent and workforce, and entrepreneurial support. We appreciate the generous support of Lilly Endowment in these efforts.”
The group says it wants to develop general and targeted public education initiatives “to raise awareness about the agbiosciences sector and the opportunities it offers.”
Already, the group has a #timetotell public outreach campaign, which includes a video featuring Gov. Eric Holcomb, Purdue President and former Gov. Mitch Daniels, Ivy Tech Community College President and former Lt. Gov. Sue Ellpersmann and other agricultural leaders. The group also hosts the annual Indiana Agbiosciences Innovation Summit, which will be on Nov. 29.
They also want to support workforce development efforts to build a pipeline of people trained for agbiosciences careers here.
“Few states possess the academic, corporate and agricultural production assets that make Indiana a national leader in this sector,” said Ace Yakey, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for community development. “AgriNovus is poised to increase awareness of the sector and help build an environment that encourages the growth of meaningful employment opportunities in Indiana communities and the workforce to take advantage of these opportunities.”
Bechdol said the group is trying to drive home the point that beyond what people traditionally typically think of as agriculture, “the sector is also grounded in biology, pharma, life sciences and human health.”
“We continue to recognize that there are some outdated perceptions about what ag as a sector is like today,” Bechdol said. “It’s not viewed as very 21st century, visionary, forward-looking. This is an industry that is now converging with innovation in other sectors and disciplines that is all coming together to be part of the food and agriculture innovation space."