“Agriculture is ripe for technological advances and someone to capitalize on that,” said the county's planning director, Mark Knudsen. “We know in order to provide enough food, there’s going to need to be technological advances.”
Plans for the project went before a steering committee last month and in front of the Ottawa County Planning Commission on Monday. It calls for the rollout of an incubator that supports farmers in the commercialization of agri-tech products.
Noting that there are already services available in Ottawa County to help other business sectors, Knudsen said the county didn’t want to develop duplicate services.
Agriculture is a unique industry for such an initiative, Knudsen said, because there are only 25 agri-businesses incubators out of 4,800 business incubators in the world.
“There was nothing focused on agriculture, which was surprising to us,” he said. “This provides a real opportunity.”
Based on the county's plans, the incubator would lack a physical building but has staff. The service would be able to support as many as eight clients per year.
The incubator would focus on four areas: agricultural production equipment, technology and software; agricultural production; food processing and food safety; and refrigeration and distribution.
“We’re not looking at jellies and jams — we’re looking at those manufacturing jobs,” Knudsen said.
The service would offer help for start-up businesses by giving them guidance in areas from legal help to getting in touch with other business partners.
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