20 Dec Investors hear about new agricultural technology
Prospective agriculture investors heard about using biomass and enzymes to produce hydrogen fuel, ethanol, and cancer treatments at the annual meeting of Badger AgVest in Lake Delton last Thursday.
These were just a few of the topics brought to the conference by the AgVest group, which focuses on agricultural investment in the state. Though it doesn’t make specific recommendations, AgVest tries to hook up up-and-coming agricultural businesses with the investors they need. The venture fair was one way of doing that, bringing together a wide range of expertise.
AgVest’s leaders manage agricultural properties as well. On Thursday, they heard from Wisconsin entrepreneurs about new ways that agribusiness can fuel technology.
Eric Apfelbach, president and CEO of Madison-based Virent Energy Systems, Inc., said presenting at his first AgVest meeting brought him an audience of a diverse group of investors. Virent, now funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and National Institute of Standards and Technology, is developing technology to transform biomass into hydrogen fuel.
“The farm co-ops actually represent a very important part of the biosciences that we deal with,” Apfelbach said. “It seemed like a decent, motivated group.”
David Mead, president and CEO of Lucigen Corp., gave a presentation on his company’s new enzyme technology. He said it could improve the efficiency of ethanol production by about 10 percent. Lucigen, a Middleton-based biotech company, had focused mostly on reagents and diagnostics, but found that this project provided a rare to combine its existing technology with enzyme research.
“We found a really unique niche that no one else was filling,” Mead said. “We’re pretty unusual, I think, in this sector. There aren’t too many companies like us.”
Ralph Kauten, chairman and CEO of Quintessence Biosciences, was invited to speak about both his company’s current investments and about the investment process in general.
“I really had a two-piece message,” Kauten said. He spent the first part of his presentation explaining the investment process, and the second part outlining his company’s most recent investments.
Kauten focused on the process that Quintessence Bioscience used to determine the technology, not necessarily the company, that would be best to invest in. He outlined how to examine technologies with a process of due diligence similar to that used to examine the financial foundations of a corporation.
Quintessence has developed a bovine enzyme into a type cancer therapy. Outlining the process from the first part of his presentation, Kauten explained his company’s success in following due diligence, and its subsequent investment in cancer therapy technology.
“I think there’s a constant quest for using commodities in higher value-added ways, and finding new and novel ways of using commodities from the agricultural area and marrying that resource with new technologies,” Kauten said. “The agricultural community is a thriving community with people interested in looking for ways of combining the resources they have with the resources in the high-tech community.”