US agri co-ops launch joint fund to drive tech advances in the sector

Partners CHS and Growmark say their combined markets offer 'an industry-leading test field for products and services'

US agri co-ops Growmark and CHS have announced the formation of Cooperative Ventures, a new capital fund that will focus on creating advancements in breakthrough technologies for the agriculture industry.

They say the fund will provide “differentiated value to startups in the agricultural ecosystem by leveraging the expansive, connected networks, unparalleled access to the farmgate and proven success of the two agricultural co-operatives”.

Both co-ops will be equal partners in the $50m fund, which will be established as its own separate legal entity.

Both are secondary co-ops for the agri-business sector; CHS, is ranked by the National Cooperative Bank as the biggest co-op in the US by turnover while Growmark provides supplies a network of members across the USA and Canda. They say their combined markets cover millions of acres and thousands of farmers, creating “an industry-leading test field for products and services within North America“.

The fund has identified three core investment areas: maximising the impact of each investment: crop production, supply chain, and sustainability.

“This is a terrific opportunity to act co-operatively by working together on a venture meaningful to agriculture and our corresponding supply chains,” said Growmark CEO Jim Spradlin. “Both Gromark and CHS have trusted relationships and expertise within our networks, which will provide tremendous value for technology startups and ultimately benefit our respective customers. This is a natural evolution of Growmark’s AgValidity trial and testing programme.”

“This partnership will help accelerate technology solutions to existing and emerging challenges in agriculture and is yet another way CHS creates connections to empower agriculture,” said Jay Debertin, president and CEO of CHS Inc. “Our ongoing commitment to investment in growth and innovation for the benefit of CHS owners and the cooperative system further places CHS and Growmark at the forefront of cutting-edge technology solutions by leveraging our deep expertise and strong connections with farmer-owners.”

The new venture pledges to provide tech startups with “unprecedented access to robust distribution capabilities within multiple value chains, allowing for opportunities to test and refine at different scales”.

It adds: “Having co-operative member-owners and customers within the same ecosystem will take these innovative ideas to a new level to create shareholder value and customer-focused solutions.”

Cooperative Ventures will be comprised of teams based out of Bloomington, Illinois, and St Paul, Minnesota.

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