Budding European agtech start-ups buoyant after Corteva partnership

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/Zbynek Pospisil
Image: Getty/Zbynek Pospisil

Related tags EU gene editing biologicals

A new tie-up between agritech giant Corteva Agriscience and Dutch accelerator StartLife, which supports start-ups in the food and agriculture sectors, aims to enable solutions through open innovation and speed the path to market breakthrough agrifood technologies in the EU. Gene editing and biologicals are be the key innovation areas expected to be propelled by the collaboration.

European AgriFoodTech Accelerator StartLife has announced its strategic collaboration with the crop protection and seed technologies giant Corteva Agriscience.

The partnership marks an important milestone for AgriFoodTech advancement, enabling solutions through open innovation and creating a bridge between the hundreds of startups in the StartLife ecosystem and Corteva.

In practical terms, the collaboration will foster knowledge sharing between corporate players, startups, and investors aligned in their mission to deliver positive change in the AgriFood value chain.

Today, StartLife’s global innovation ecosystem includes hundreds of startups from all over the world in the AgriFoodTech space, as well as notable VC and corporate partners such as Astanor, Anterra Capital, The YieldLab, and Rabobank.

StartLife has been operating since 2010 and closely collaborates with its co-founder, world leading Wageningen University & Research.

Corteva has been promoting innovative solutions in the European agricultural landscape since its inception in 2018. Three years later, it opened an integrated R&D center in Eshbach (Germany), followed by the launch of its first Applied Seed Technology Center in Europe, the CSAT, a year later.

Corteva recently introduced Corteva Catalyst, a platform dedicated to investment and partnership aimed at accessing and commercializing agricultural innovations aligned with the company's R&D goals, fostering value generation and positive impact. Corteva Catalyst collaborates with entrepreneurs and innovators to expedite the advancement of pioneering technologies in their early stages, facilitating farmers' ability to produce food and fostering the resilience of the food system.

“Corteva is a global leader in agriculture that brings to market innovations in biotechnology, advanced crop protection systems and seed technologies that improve the lives of farmers, communities and consumers around the world,’’ explained Laura Thissen, Interim Managing Director of StartLife. "By leveraging the company’s research and development pipeline, startups affiliated with StartLife will gain precious insights and support to inform and accelerate their path to market and ability to scale breakthrough technologies into real-world commercial applications."

“StartLife has been a pioneer in promoting global innovation in the AgriFood technology space, helping grow a host of successful startups that went on to drive impact in their application markets,” shared Tom Greene, who leads Corteva Catalyst. “We look forward to collaborating with StartLife to connect to early-stage startups that align with our research priorities.”

Limited innovation available to farmers

Greene, speaking with AgTechNaviagor, elaborated on what the partnership means in practical terms.

“Today, early-stage innovation is happening at the start-up phase, but there are a limited number of players that can deliver this innovation directly into growers’ hands,” he told us. “We are ideally positioned to be the partner of choice to entrepreneurs. We have a robust and dedicated team within Corteva’s powerful R&D engine. Our platform is advantaged by this close connection to R&D, providing access to extensive resources and capabilities. As the largest U.S.-based global agricultural company, we have the footprint, expertise, and go-to-market infrastructure to support the development and commercialisation of ground-breaking innovations. 

Through Corteva Catalyst, our goal is to pair Corteva’s resources with the agility of start-ups and universities to accelerate external innovation in order to drive solutions for global farmers and expand the company’s pipeline with products that accelerate growth.” 

Why the EU is a key market for Corteva

With the European Parliament recently voting to ease the regulation of gene editing technology, the EU is an important geography for Corteva, he revealed.

“We see gene editing as the next generation of breeding technology that will allow us to more effectively mine our germplasm base, deliver innovation in a more sustainable way, and more effectively meet the needs of growers. This means delivering products that deliver more yield with fewer inputs.” 

The EU has also established new rules for fertilising products through the Fertilizing Products Regulation (EU) 2019/1009, which entered into force in 2022. This regulation sets limits on contaminants like cadmium, lead, and biocides to protect health and the environment, and establishes safety, quality, labelling, and traceability requirements for fertilising products.

Corteva therefore sees growth potential for biologicals and naturally inspired crop protection products. “We see early-stage companies innovating in both of these spaces and we see this innovation directly serving the needs of growers in the EU,” explained Greene. “Our ability to partner early will hopefully create win-win scenarios that allow us to de-risk emerging areas and accelerate the pace of innovation and product delivery.”


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