GREG MORRIS: Agbiosciences innovation helps drive state economy

Keywords Commentary / Opinion

morris-greg-commentary-2018.jpgAgriculture has gone high-tech, and Indiana is a leader on the world stage in agriculture innovation and production. It might not be apparent as you drive by one of Indiana’s more than 56,000 farming operations, but this is no longer your father’s farm.

Indiana is a top 10 state in agriculture production. According to the USDA, Indiana boasts an annual $10 billion of crop and livestock products sold and $4.6 billion in agricultural exports, and is first in the nation in duck production and fifth in corn, hogs and soybeans. An estimated 14.7 million Indiana acres are cultivated by farming operations.

Agbiosciences contributes $16 billion a year to Indiana’s economy and employs more than 75,000 Hoosiers in high-paying jobs—more than 30 percent above the state average wage.

Like most business sectors, agriculture and the entire food chain have experienced dramatic technological change and disruption. With this comes great economic opportunity. So, it only makes sense that, under the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership umbrella, AgriNovus Indiana launched in 2015 to promote and accelerate growth of Indiana’s agbiosciences community.

You read about many other CICP initiatives in IBJ—BioCrossroads, advancing Indiana’s life sciences industry; TechPoint, the growth accelerator for Indiana’s tech ecosystem; Conexus Indiana, which promotes and grows Indiana’s advanced manufacturing and logistics economy; Energy Systems Network, focusing on Indiana and global energy challenges; and Ascend Indiana, connecting Indiana employers with the talent they need.

Beth Bechdol is president and CEO of AgriNovus. She has served in leadership at Ice Miller, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee under Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, and with Informa Economics.

Bechdol is a tireless advocate of the agbiosciences industry and loves building alliances with people and organizations that might not even know they should be connected—research institutions, global businesses, government, startups, investors and not-for-profits, among others.

What do we mean when we refer to the agbiosciences sector? It seems complicated, and is somewhat difficult to explain, but when you peel back the onion a bit, things start to come into focus.

When AgriNovus says Indiana is Ag + Bio + Science, it is telling the world that Indiana scientists, entrepreneurs and companies produce meaningful research and build talent in plant sciences, animal health and nutrition, human food and nutrition, and high-tech agriculture. More simply—it’s where food, agriculture, science and technology converge.

A session at the recent AgriNovus Agbioscience Innovation Summit in Indianapolis also helped define the multi-faceted sector. The session “Converging sectors create unique solutions” featured C-suite panelists from Cummins, Roche Diagnostics, Elanco, Ivy Tech Community College and Corteva Agriscience.

As a lifelong resident of Indiana with extended family that engaged in farming in Hamilton County, I’ve always had an appreciation for not only the business, but also the way of life. Farmers are the hardest workers I know, and they feed the world. What job could be more important?

But the old ways of farming are giving way to the high-tech agbiosciences industry. And there are many stories of innovation all across the state that should be of great interest to IBJ readers. They are stories of food, agriculture, science and technology converging. I’ve challenged our editors to find and report those stories to you in the months ahead.

Thanks for your interest in one of Indiana’s most important industries. And thanks for reading and supporting IBJ.•

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Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send email to [email protected]

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