By  – Reporter, Albuquerque Business First
Sep 15, 2017, 6:30am

The team at New Mexico’s first agriculture technology-focused accelerator, founded in February, has had little time to catch its breath. After wrapping up its first cohort, AgSprint is preparing to host a national competition.

The young accelerator belongs to New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, which is the school’s entrepreneurial hub. Its first cohort, made up of five “agtech” startups from around the country, graduated in early August. They went through a five-month program that came with $2,000 in funding and business development assistance.

As AgSprint’s program director Zetdi Sloan bid farewell to the graduates, plans were budding to take on a bigger task: the Future Agro Challenge’s first-ever United States competition.

“We’re on a mission to put on a good show,” Sloan said.

In November, 10 “agtech” startups will converge in Las Cruces to compete in pitch challenges, among other tests, whittling the ranks down to three teams. Venture capitalists from around the country will help choose the final three. The best startup will move on to the international Future Agro Challenge competition in Istanbul, Turkey in December.

Sloan said the New Mexico accelerator was chosen because a graduate from its cohort had applied last year, but had no country to compete from.

“Having that previous relationship and having individuals here on the ground who are working with us and could provide some credibility for our program, I think that was the decision maker for [the competition committee,]” she said.

The Future Agro Challenge has existed since at least 2014, according to its website.

Its goal is “to foster a community of agro visionaries, startups, farmers, manufacturers and distributors from countries across the world so they can start a global conversation,” the website states.

Agtech startups include food retail, food production, food sustainability or nutrition and health, among many other focuses.

New Mexico generates $6 billion in revenue through agriculture alone, according to NMSU’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. When food processing is included, that raises the number to about $11 billion.

Global investment in agriculture technology reached a historical high with $25 billion in 2015, according to Bloomberg. Goldman Sachs Group predicts the market could be worth $240 billion by 2050.