INDIANAPOLIS — A diverse group of entrepreneurs, students, leaders and other professionals came together to learn about innovation in agriculture.

They convened at the second annual Indiana Agbiosciences Innovation Summit. The event was hosted by AgriNovus Indiana, an economic development initiative.

“One of the most important things that we are doing to elevate the focus around ag innovation is to bring non-traditional partners all together into the same room,” said Beth Bechdol, president and CEO of AgriNovus.

“We’re also making sure to focus on not only on advancements in technology, but also the people. Human capital and talent will carry out this research. They will become the marketplace for the technologies that emerge.”

A panel of business professionals talked about the need for talent in agriculture at the event.

Talent Needed

“One of the things we’ve seen at the Foundry is that there are two huge needs that our start-up companies need. They have the technologies and the innovation. But we’re always on the hunt for capital and talent. I often get asked which of the two is more important. Previously, I thought it was capital. You have to have capital to grow. But, honestly, I think the bigger challenge we face in this sector is talent.”

Generate Interest

“There’s so many exciting things in the world of ag biosciences. There’s information technology, imaging, microbiology, science and people. It’s unbelievably exciting. I think we need to find a way, as a group, to translate that excitement through education and find ways to make ag exciting. Bring diverse backgrounds to the table to talk about what all is involved. It’s not just growing a crop. It’s all the things going into it. Once we relay that message and get a different population involved, we’re all going to be better off.”

Get Word Out

“I think attracting talent to this sector is incredibly important. The one challenge all of us have is telling people. Folks don’t know that there’s this idea of big data in production. They don’t understand that there are analytics to be applied, engineering to be developed in all that we do … We need people who understand how to take this data and these insights, with these sciences, to create something that the producer has never seen before, not just because it’s novel, but because it can change their business and make them more money. Our challenge is to shine a spotlight on that and work together. Through that, we’ll increase diversity.”

Remove Barriers

“We have to break down stereotypes. There’s a lot of facts and figures, but people don’t remember those when they’re making career decisions as much as they remember stories. There’s a lack of understanding about agriculture. We need to fix a systemic problem. We have to get into the schools early so that when somebody is making a career decision, we can put someone before them that they weren’t expecting. They’ll remember those stories and personal connections. Internships could also be part of that.”

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 317-726-5391, ext. 4, or Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.


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