Mitch Frazier | AgriNovus: AgTech and Indiana's Booming Agbioscience Economy

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This is a podcast episode titled, Mitch Frazier | AgriNovus: AgTech and Indiana's Booming Agbioscience Economy. The summary for this episode is: <p>In today&apos;s episode, we talk to Mitch Frazier, CEO at AgriNovus.  Part of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, AgriNovus is a non-profit fueling growth in Indiana’s agbioscience community. Mitch talks about his career and his leadership, the intersection of tech and agbioscience, and what the future holds for the industry. </p>

Ting Gootee (00:00):
Well, welcome to TechPoint Circuit podcast. Today we have our our guest, Mitch Frazier from AgriNovus. Mitch is one of our sister, or brother organizations under the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. You've been leading AgriNovus for a while now. Tell us about AgriNovus, It's origin, mission, and goals.
Mitch Frazier (01:23):
Yeah, Ting. Thanks. Thanks for letting me be a part of the TechPoint team for a while. And it's so fun to be with you and to be back with the TechPoint team after, gosh, what it's been 15 years since I've been in the TechPoint world with ExactTarget and Salesforce, so it's fun to be back together.
Ting Gootee (01:40):
We still consider you a very important stakeholder.
Mitch Frazier (01:43):
Oh, that's so good.
Ting Gootee (01:44):
And by the way, for everybody who's listening, we are actually sitting in the AgriNovis studio, recording studio. So always thank you for being such a collaborative partner, letting be in your space.
Mitch Frazier (01:54):
Of course, of course. So, AgriNovus, you know, part of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, much like TechPoint, we were founded 2015, 2016, really is this offshoot of BioCrossroads. BioCrossroads being the life sciences initiative. And it's funny, you know, hindsight is this wonderfully clear view of things. You, you look back and go, How in the world did we not have an ag or agbioscience focused initiative given the amazing strength of Indiana's agbioscience economy? So we started, really started as this organization focused on connecting and convening different groups across Indiana's agbioscience economy. And what happened over time was, you know, Beth Beto, the founding CEO, an amazing job, an amazing leader, creating this groundswell of people who wanted to come together and grow this economy. I joined in 2020 amidst the pandemic. And what we really were able to do then is build off of that base, build off of that cornerstone, build off the momentum and say, what do we go do next?
Mitch Frazier (02:56):
And as we looked at the Indiana agbioscience economy, what we saw was food was such a big piece of it. We were in the midst of a pandemic where you and I and so many others went to the grocery store and saw empty store shelves. Food was at the forefront of the news. We set a big, a big target on, said, okay, we have this asset, we have these people, let's go do. And so we've set this goal, we call it Grow 2024 — commitment to grow Indiana's agbioscience economy by 4 billion. That's 4 billion in revenue. We've oriented the team to do that. And oh, Ting, I'm so excited. We are today, as we sit here today, we have worked with our partners, collective partners at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation on projects that collectively have committed to more than 2000 new jobs.
Ting Gootee (03:46):
Mitch Frazier (03:47):
And over 1.1 billion in capital investment. So just, it, it is fun to see what's happening. It's fun to be a part of this organization. Oh my gosh. It's so fun to work with you guys.
Ting Gootee (03:56):
Yeah. Well, thank you for the, for the background information and congratulations. Thank you. I'm sure it's a record breaking number, but we'll, we'll dive into that later. Before we get into that, I know you mentioned you joined the organization in 2020 Right before the pandemic. And, we had also chatted early on about your stellar career, really in majority of in tech, but also in the public sector in the Army for a while in a farm equipment of business. And, what attracted you to this particularization other than very eclectic mix of a and experience?
Mitch Frazier (04:33):
Yeah. You know, so I'm a kid who grew up in, I guess I'm not kidding anymore. I'm a guy. I'm a guy who grew up in rural Indiana, Tipton County, Indiana. Didn't grow up on a farm, grew up with a, a significant appreciation for the agriculture industry and truth be told, really love anything with a motor, anything with an engine. I'm, I'm interested Ting. So, you know, I joined the Army, spent five years active duty in the Army, went to work for the Army as a civilian, came back to work for Governor Daniels, got into tech, then ultimately into ag. And you know what, what I found was, this is sort of the red thread that's woven throughout this whole career. One is, I I love, like what me personally, I love to serve. I mean, it's clear in the army and clear working for Governor Daniels, but you know when we were in ExactTarget, you know, my commitment was certainly to our customers and our team.
Mitch Frazier (05:18):
It was about serving Scott Dorsey. I mean, Scott is one of those guys. He's one of the rare people I think in this world, certainly in my life, fundamentally changed, my career. Gave me clear view of what leadership looks like, how to be a great leader, how to be a great marketer, how to be a great dad. I just love Scott. So, so you look at sort of that piece. And so it come from that into this notion of service now, which took me into ag. And what was, there was this idea of, okay, you have this background in tech, you have this passion to serve. Oh my gosh, there's no place better than working hand in hand with those who serve the American farmer here in Indiana, the Hoosier farmer. And I got a chance to see, you know, sort of, it's that front row seat right.
Mitch Frazier (06:06):
Of where tech and the food system come together. And that's in the acres that we see here in Indiana. It's when, you know, you're driving north, driving south, driving east, driving west, wherever you're hearing this, watching this, there's likely a farm field nearby. And the amount of data, the amount of technology, the amount of innovation that's happening on those acres, it's amazing. Yeah. And so when the opportunity came to lead AgriNovus, sort of a lot of soul searching, grateful for Gary Reynolds and the Reynolds Farm Equipment family for their blessing to come here to serve it. It is amazing, you know, this opportunity to work across Indiana's diverse agbioscience economy. You know, this is a 52 billion economy really built on animal health, crop protection, plant science, ag tech, and food. Like you, you look at those four, the amount of opportunity for innovation, whether it's science, innovation, go to market innovation, tech innovation, my think it's incredible.
Mitch Frazier (07:03):
And so what drew me is the opportunity to do these kinds of things to live my passion to serve. Yep. And what's so fun is, I, I mean, it is to work with, with leaders like you, I mean, you and I have worked together for well over a decade. I mean, I remember, you know, spending time certainly pitching you and startup companies. But also just, you know, being in this place where we both care deeply about this, this community, not just Indianapolis or Central Indiana, but this community we call Indiana. And what a blessing it is to be able to serve.
Ting Gootee (07:34):
Yeah. I can totally resonate with that. And we also very grateful that leaders like Union Prime years and all the great experiences. You can do a number of things and you have. In your past decade plus career, but you choose to do this and really can apply all the leadership skills you acquired along the way to both work collaboratively with a number of initiative people like me and more importantly outside this organization, the stakeholders. Because it's a collective effort. It is, as you pointed out. It is. And you have also talked kind of, in terms of ag sector, economic impact and the size of economy. You referenced the 52 billion numbers. There's different elements to it. I know I heard you telling that story many, many times now. Every time I hear it's still very "Wow". The wow factor is still there. Can you just break it down a little more for us?
Mitch Frazier (08:27):
Sure. So, you know, we had never looked, and it's crazy, we never looked at what...
Ting Gootee (08:32):
We just thought it was big because we drive through all the farm fields,
Mitch Frazier (08:36):
Right? Then you start looking at this and you break down and you say, okay, well ag in Indiana is this big thing. And then now this crazy guy's talking agbioscience. Like we are intentional...
Ting Gootee (08:44):
What is it?
Mitch Frazier (08:45):
We are intentional about agbioscience, the use of the word agbioscience because it's defined in research and that that research sets out the components of this economy. It's value added food and nutrition, animal health, nutrition, crop protection, plant science, agtech, and then production agriculture as well. That's the 52 billion. But what's really fascinating is when you begin to break this down to your point, you know, you look at value added food and nutrition in Indiana, it's a $29 billion economy. Now let me juxtapose some numbers here.
Ting Gootee (09:15):
What is value added?
Mitch Frazier (09:16):
So, great question. So value added, 29 billion, think of this as anything farm gate to the dinner table where some sort of value is accretive, right? Like so, could be as simple as processing could be as complicated as food manufacturing. Really anything in between. One of my favorite examples, because I think everybody gets it. You've been to a Colts game or you, you've been to the grocery store, you see Red Gold. So it's not necessarily the Red Gold tomato production, but it's the ketchup and the salsa and those kinds of things. That's a great view of value added food nutrition in Indiana. You know, one, one of my favorite stories, I, you know, that I really like to eat. That's a, that's a real thing that we've shared. In fact, just shared lunch together today. Cliff Bar. So if you're a Cliff Bar fan, there are two Cliff Bar bakeries in the country. One of 'em here in Indiana. So that's kind of fun. So okay, so 29 billion value added food, nutrition production agriculture in Indiana. The thing that we typically think of when we say ag, it's a 13 billion industry right now. Those are revenues of companies.
Ting Gootee (10:16):
So those are all in the field, we can see.
Mitch Frazier (10:19):
That's right. But food, food alone is twice as big as production agriculture in Indiana. And then we start going across, so the next would be animal health and nutrition. Think of this as anything from vaccine to, feed. So whether that's, you know, how do we care for livestock? How do we care for companion animals to how do we feed them and how do we optimize that feed? There's some really interesting innovations. Elanco great example of that. Also on the feed side, you have great companies like United Animal Health up in Sheridan. So really cool, really cool work happening there. Crop protection, plant science, that's the third area of the port innovation portfolio. Crop protection and plant science really is, you know, you look at a company like Corteva, I mean, this is Corteva moving their global headquarters to Indiana this year. Just incredible movement. Now, this is everything from the seed genetics.
Mitch Frazier (11:09):
How do we, how do we optimize that seed all the way to how do we care for that plant? Corteva just a global leader in that, but we have so many others in the state as well. Doing great work up at West Lafayette, a company called Inari. really focused on gene editing, not gene modifying. Just raised a massive venture around doing some amazing work. And we have more traditional players that are leading some really incredible innovation in that space. Companies like Bex Hybrids, Aly, and Genetics up in Westfield. So we've talked about value added food, animal health and nutrition, crop protection and plant science. Then the one that I know is near and dear to our collective hearts is AgTech. Yeah. And AgTech really is this intersection of hardware and software and where those two things come together that make the rest of this economy work.
Mitch Frazier (11:54):
It's the fastest growing category of Indiana's agbioscience economy. And there are so many great stories. You know, I look at a company we brought here from Israel. Yep. I traveled to Tel Aviv with Governor Holcomb back in 2018. We met a really cool company, fun story from the tech economy here in Indiana. So, I was Arnold's farm equipment, you know, selling tractors. That was, that was the objective. And Beth Beto founding CEO of AgriNovus never reached out to me and said, Hey, look, um, can you help us figure out some plate? We're gonna go to Israel, We'd like you to go and help us, you know, connect with some agtech companies. I didn't have the heart to tell her. I, I really didn't know. So I was like, okay, sure, yeah. I'll help it out. I'll help you out. So I literally Googled AgTech in Israel. I mean, this is, this is my deep research. I'm gonna go make some big connections. And I had a list. It's like, okay, how do we prioritize who. Well come to find out Mark Benioff, that now the co-CEO of Salesforce. Benioff is a seed investor and this company called Terans. And I'm like, well, if Benioff is willing to put his capital to work.
Ting Gootee (12:58):
Follow the money.
Mitch Frazier (12:59):
Right. We should go spend time with them. So we went and spent time with them. Ultimately, they moved their headquarters here in 2020. And we've seen a really, a really ground swell of, of folks coming here to have access, not just to the talent, not just the incredible tech ecosystem that is in Indiana, but the amazingly progressive producers we have. You know, we had a company we recruited here from California, a company called Intel Air. Really amazing technology. And then on the other side of the spectrum, you see up in northern Indiana and Steuben County, Ian Hartley and his team, a company called Traction Ag, really focused on building a better financial operating ecosystem for the ag industry. I mean, Ting, there are innovators all across Indiana from each of those categories, whether it's food, animal health, crop protection, agtech, this economy is a place where innovation is happening. And each and every piece of that has a huge opportunity for AI/ML. Our Overall strength in software-as-a-service here in Indiana. We are well positioned.
Ting Gootee (13:58):
Yeah, certainly sounds like it. Because you, what you're describing this entire ecosystem. We own the entire value chain. In that way that that orations like AgriNovus and TechPoint can help facilitate companies plug in and solving the right problems in the right ways. That has tremendous value for sure. You had mentioned the, the growth area at tech sounds like it's one of the focus areas your team, you and your team are working on. What do you see, maybe pull it up a little. What do you see as a sort of higher level, the most promising growth areas, thinking longer term the next five to 10 years, besides the technology disruption that's happening everywhere.
Mitch Frazier (14:37):
Yeah. You know, I think there are a handful of categories, and maybe I'll put 'em into three buckets. One is around pure tech. So this idea of, of how do we use data science? How do we use artificial intelligence, machine learning to improve the food system. And, you know, we've seen great innovations in this space, but Indiana, oh my gosh, Indiana is so well positioned. You look at, I look back 10, 15 years, you look at ExactTarget, Angie's List, Aprimo, Interactive Intelligence, Emarsys, put 'em all in the same category. You know, those really all were all AI/ML companies, but we didn't call 'em that then because we didn't...
Ting Gootee (15:15):
Called a SaaS company. Called MarTech companies.
Mitch Frazier (15:18):
Yeah. But at their core, right? It was how do we, how do we aggregate data?
Ting Gootee (15:22):
Through automation.
Mitch Frazier (15:23):
Through automation, right. And make sense of it, and then take the next, next best action. And Interactive Intelligence. How do we ride up through the call center? At Angie's List? How do we route it to the right contractor? At, you know Aprimo was how do we optimize marketing, spend? At ExactTarget, how do we optimize and send the right message? We have that same ability. We have that same ability in AgTech here in Indiana. And our job, our collective jobs, is how do we go out and tell that story? So one area I see of massive opportunity for growth is certainly in Pure Tech. Secondarily, I think there's a huge opportunity in automation. You know, as, as members of TechPoint, members of AgriNovus, I think we continue to hear this real strong push in the economy that, hey, we're labor tight.
Mitch Frazier (16:06):
I mean, we are constrained with labor. We've seen big moves in this space. John Deere is an example, you know, made a big move last year with a acquisition of a company called Bear Flag Robotics. Incredible company in California. And the whole notion was how do we automate some degree of rote task? You know, it, how do we automate tillage? How do we automate passes through the field? Incredible work. I think we're gonna continue to see more and more innovators seek to solve sort of that operational challenge through automation. And so I think we're gonna see a lot of innovation there. Again, Indiana well positioned our strength and manufacturing puts us in a good spot. Our strength and AI/ML, SaaS, puts us in a good spot and are just connection to really interesting producers, I think puts us in a good spot.
Mitch Frazier (16:52):
Third is, is this movement around, green tech, around biologicals, ultimately sustainability. That's gonna be a big driver. And it's not just a driver. Look, everyone, when, when you look at production, agriculture, production, agriculture, the pioneers, the true pioneers, environmentalism, I mean the, the, the environment itself is their production ground. Right? And so, so they are doing everything they can to take care of it. What I think we're beginning to see now through supply chain disruptions, through increased input cost, is how do we do this in a way that isn't just more sustainable environmentally, clearly critical, but how do we also do it in a way that's economically sustainable. And so we're gonna see new innovations, Corteva leading some really interesting work around this, around biological innovation, great company up in Anderson called Hello Nature, doing some really interesting work around biological and bio stimulants. So I think we're gonna see sort of this green tech sustainability piece. We're gonna see automation be a big place to this. And I think we're gonna see PureTech really those three driving the next wave, the next chapter of innovation in agbioscience.
Ting Gootee (17:57):
That's really interesting, particularly around the green tech sustainability piece, because the market timing right, we're kind of absolutely remedies predicting or try getting ready to embrace the movement for a number of years now. But to your point about the recent change or continued evolution of micro market and environment, particularly around inflation, rising cost of inputs and rising cost of labor. Shortage of labor really drive everybody to take a now all of a sudden innovation and need to, automation needs start to move up the priority list.
Mitch Frazier (18:27):
Totally. I mean, when you look at innovation, you, and I've talked about this so many times. I mean, think you've gave me counsel along my, my journey. You know, what problem are you trying to solve? I mean, if one of Dorsey's favorite things that he, he reminds me of is what problem are you trying to solve? And, you know, the same two sides of the same coin challenge an opportunity. And where there's this like inflation, I think the last number I saw on CPI was over 8%. If we look back to last month, the greatest 12 month, the greatest 12 month inflation in food since the seventies. Right? Those are challenges that are affecting homeowners, affecting everyone that's listening, watching. That's a reality. But it also creates an opportunity and a space for innovation. Somebody is going to solve that. That's somebody better be in Indiana and those that are listening, this is your call to action, Right. To come alongside and innovate right here in Indiana.
Ting Gootee (19:20):
Yep. Absolutely. Well, you kind of already, so, so kind of now the growth area have, have been identified at least on a higher level, what are some of the specific strategies and you and your team are pursuing to, to spur the further growth in those three buckets of activities?
Mitch Frazier (19:34):
Yeah, so we, we think of our go-to-market really in three key categories. One is around business growth. And business growth is really driven around this idea of, we're incredibly fortunate that AgriNovus to have 30 board members who are highly engaged. And these are really the who's who, a coalition of leaders across industry, academia, government going to 'em and saying, Hey, what are you interested in? What gaps exist in the product portfolio? What areas do you, are you spending time in? And then us going across the country and around the world to bring partners to them that fit that ultimately with the objective of them growing here in Indiana. So, so that's a big area that we're focused on. That's what's driving...
Ting Gootee (20:13):
So solving some of the corporate bigger challenges.
Mitch Frazier (20:16):
And it doesn't have to be the bigs, right? I mean, whether you're a big company, whether you're a small company, you understand product roadmap. You understand what your customer is wanting. And if we can help make those connections and be the place that makes the, you know, that connects the wires across geographies, it becomes a really interesting piece. The second area that we're spending time on, second area in go to market, really is around startup acceleration. You know, our board, when I started, they said, we want two things from you. One is we want more companies here. Two, we want more startups here. Message received. Right? So the second area that we're spending time on is startup acceleration. And this is an area where, you know, much like the same with business growth. Hey, what problems do you have? Let us bring you a solution.
Mitch Frazier (20:56):
But also how do we inspire the creation of new ventures? And so some of the things that you and I have worked on together, even in our short time together are these innovation challenges. You know, we just spent some time, on Hunger Tech. We believe just like MarTech exists in Indiana, SalesTech exists, FinTech exists. We think Hunger Tech is an entirely new category of technology that needs created. I would love to spend more time on it, but creating, creating the definition, like going to industry and saying what problem is there? Defining that problem, and then using that as a real flash point, a really clearly defined endpoint to go solve. We think there's an opportunity there. We've done the same thing with producers. Farmers go to them and say, What, what exists? What problems exist on the farm? And how do we bring tech to it?
Mitch Frazier (21:42):
So that's the second go-to-market. And then the third piece of go-to-market that we're spending time on really is this idea of how do we build thought leadership? Yeah. You know, I, I don't believe that you can do a good job in business growth or in startup acceleration. If you don't have a data informed view of the market. You have to have some basis of knowledge, some basis of information. We conduct primary research, we spend time into the events. You've spoken at those. But also we do some work in Field Atlas. And I think this is one where, you know, if you're hearing this and you think, Gosh, this sounds pretty interesting, you know, I, I spend a lot of my time in software development, or I spend my time in product management, but I really would like to get more into sustainability, or I like to get more into the food system.
Mitch Frazier (22:21):
You know, this is your opportunity to go see, It's a, it's a website called Field Atlas, and you can find it at, And there, what we've done is we've said, Hey, let's bring people who aren't normally in this tent and bring 'em in. So let's expose them. You know, if you're a finance major, a marketing major, maybe you're early in your career in biology, or you're early in your career in, even a, a lawyer, Right? Like wherever you are, there's an opportunity for you in this 52 billion economy. And so we think there's a really unique piece of thought leadership to be really built around Field Atlas. And then lastly, is this, right? This place that we're in these conversations, we run a podcast, it's Ag+Bio+Science is the name of the podcast clever enough. And, that has become a really powerful tool.
Mitch Frazier (23:08):
Just, just last week we had the deputy under secretary for USDA talking about this work around hunger that we've done. We had the, chief health officer from Anthem now Elevance Health, talking about, you know, this need for innovation. And that's the thing that fires me up so much about our partnership and the work that AgriNovus and TechPoint can do together, because the solution to the problems that one could argue are existential. Isn't going to be born by one group, one team, even one organization. It's gonna be built by cross connectivity of, you know, some really interesting work You're doing, some really interesting work that's happening across the tech ecosystem, across the agbioscience ecosystem, across Agnos, the podcast, the Ag Bioscience podcast is a great place to sort of elevate those stories.
Ting Gootee (23:54):
Wow. That's fantastic. I know your podcast, the Ag+Bio+Science That's right. Also has a very strong audience and following. Recently, did pretty good scoring?
Mitch Frazier (24:06):
Yeah, number three, AgTech podcast in the world. According to FeedSpot. We were elated to get the news. That's number one. Salinas California. Number two. Sydney, Australia, number three...
Ting Gootee (24:17):
Mitch Frazier (24:19):
So good.
Ting Gootee (24:19):
Congratulations. Well, you kind of touch upon a little bit to your point earlier, part of the reason you were attracted to this, opportunities are unique intersection between the public sector and private sector, but big co's and small co's. You're doing work on both ends. How do you see, how are you seeing the big ag players kind of leaning into our community in terms of corporate innovation and as well as startup engagement side?
Mitch Frazier (24:46):
It's incredible. I mean, it is incredible back to business growth and startup acceleration. You know, the way that we're able to do what we can do is because those big companies, you know, the big companies, the mid-size companies, privately held, publicly held, all have a deep desire to support this economy. And look, I, I'm a big believer in this intersection of good and well, like, you know, people come together to do good. They want to do good. They want to see growth, but they also need the ability to grow their own business and to do well. And that's what's so fun about this, this work that we're leading is, you know, by working with big co's and small co's and family health and publicly held, you know, they have a desire to meet and connect with startups. They have a desire to meet and connect with venture.
Mitch Frazier (25:30):
They have a desire to meet and connect with government and academia, whether it be for talent, whether it be for education, that intersectionality between all of those things is fantastic. And we are really fortunate in Indiana, you look at, you know, Bex for example, the largest, the nation's largest retail, privately held retail seed brand. Corteva, arguably the largest integrated ag company maybe in the world. There's the third largest publicly held company in Indiana by market cap. So number one is Lilly. Number two is Elevance. Used to be Anthem. Number three is Corteva. Right? Incredible work. If you're driving through the countryside listening to this, and you see a pioneer sign along the side of the road that's Corteva. Pioneer is Corteva. And then you look at, you know, just the, the other folks that are in this space, whether it be from Cliff Bar, like we talked about, Red Gold on the food side. There's so many that give us an opportunity to really meet any innovator wherever they are and make the connections they need to grow their business.
Ting Gootee (26:28):
Yeah. That, that's great. That's really, this network effect is really incredible. Particularly if you figure out ways like what you're doing to operationalize that connectivity, create win-win situations for all the stakeholders around. You touch upon a little bit about the corporate innovation stuff you're doing in Hunger Tech producer led innovation challenges. You know, coming from my world where number of years in venture investing innovation, corporate innovation challenges can sometimes be a little mystery in the sense that it's a lot of fanfare, right? When you, whenever you run pitch competitions it's a lot of production work, and then you announce the winner and give out the price. And what happened afterwards, how do you find more sustainable ways to create truly meaningful success outta corporate innovation challenges?
Mitch Frazier (27:18):
You know, I think the team that launches those programs is directly correlated to the outcomes that those challenges can generate. So, you know, we had this idea, I remember sitting with, Courtney King Ray, who's the CEO of Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Indiana Soybean Alliance, and it was like, look, we have a lot of smart tech people in Indiana and we have a lot of smart producers that, you know, are part of her organization. Why don't we run a challenge and see if we can solve something? This was like week three on the job, right?
Ting Gootee (27:49):
During in the pandemic.
Mitch Frazier (27:51):
Yeah, that's right. She's like, I don't know,lLet's, let's try it. Yeah. And so we did it. And Ting what's amazing, right? This is amazing. This is a true testament to the people who are part of AgriNovus, the people who are part of Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the Soybean Alliance, Indiana Farm Bureau. All of these folks coming together, the innovation that was created during, during that first innovation challenge is now powering the operations of dairy farms in Indiana. And the whole notion was, is how do we use data to optimize feed pushes to dairy cows? So how do we, how do we optimize when to push, how much to push the food into, you know, where the cows can get to it without or improve, without impacting negatively or improving milk output? So it was, it was a data science project, right?
Mitch Frazier (28:37):
This company called Iotta Solutions worked with a group of a dairy farmers called Benton Group, in let's be west central Indiana. That tech is still running today. It's amazing, right? And then we look at Hunger Tech, where, you know, through some research, through some research with Ernst and Young and Purdue, there was this passing mention is just incredible passing mention that said, in the future, food security will be driven more by connectivity than proximity. Meaning that in the future, digital connectivity between supply and demand will be more important than your proximity to a retail grocer. And you know, as I looked at that, like, I'm not a food expert by any stretch, but I look at it and go, That's not a food problem. That's not an Ag bioscience problem.
Ting Gootee (29:21):
It's a technology problem.
Mitch Frazier (29:22):
A technology problem. Right? Like that's a tech opportunity is particularly when you look at this market that it is in, you know, if you just narrow food, if you narrow the hunger world to SNAP - supplemental nutrition assistance program, many have historically called them food stamps. But that, that's the program that in and of itself is 120 billion a year of market. So 120 billion. Now, not all of that will go online, right? There's a portion of it that will, But imagine any tech company who said, Hey, I have access to 120 billion annual market that's continued to grow.
Ting Gootee (29:57):
So how do you get a piece, right?
Mitch Frazier (29:59):
Like how do you go do that? And the best part of this is this isn't just about like, how do we do it in a way that it, you know, connects supply and demand? How do we do it in a way that really enables those who are hungry to access food in need? And how do we do it in a way where a tech company can be created that ultimately is profitable, that generates revenue? And how do we do that in a way that ultimately increases competition to decrease the cost, Right? So everybody wins. And my belief is if you can create that pipe, right? If you can create the conduit between supply and demand, do it meaningfully in a digital way, deliver those, those food stuffs wherever they are, to wherever the demand is, now you build a platform to be able to interact with that recipient in a way that truly serves their unique needs.
Mitch Frazier (30:42):
Whether that's through education, whether it's through, nutrition, whether that's, you know, pick your favorite thing once you've built the hierarchy of needs, right? Once you've built the connection on food, and once you've met those needs, now that person has the ability and we have the ability to create solutions to serve them. That's what Hunger Tech's all about, those kinds of things, right? Whether it's producer led, whether it's the Hunger Tech Innovation Challenge, bringing partners together that really know, that, really understand, you know, Elevance Health coming in on Hunger Tech, Community Health Network coming in on Hunger Tech, Parkview Health up in Northwest, or rather northeast Indiana coming together to do that. Those are the kinds of things where it's, you know, we have such an opportunity to, to really use, to really work with this network. Cause let's go solve big problems and let's do it in a way that isn't just episodic. Let's do it in a way that's durable. Let's do it in a way where business can be created, where we can do something here that has a lasting impact on not just, you know, the net income or growth of a business, but on population as a whole. Oh my gosh, what an amazing opportunity.
Ting Gootee (31:46):
Yeah. And speaking about the lasting impact, kind of the Hunger Tech, the winner opportunity, the insights you, your team generated from that particular exercise, even though the exercise that that particular project went on for about three months. Yeah.
Mitch Frazier (32:01):
It's still going.
Ting Gootee (32:02):
It's still going. Yeah. The solutions still piloted and trying to carve out or take advantage of the market opportunity exist today, but even on the policy, potentially policy influencing side or education of our policy stakeholders, I think you went on even took that insight into further than just Indiana, didn't you?
Mitch Frazier (32:22):
That's right. That's exactly right. So, you know, as we work through really market discovery like you would do with any other product, right? Understand what, what landscape exists. We were really fortunate to be connected with, you know, leaders across the country, leaders in policy, leaders in in industry, and even leaders here within Indiana's congressional delegation. So Senator Braun, I have the great fortune serving on his AG advisory committee. Senator Braun also served on the committee or the commission for the White House Conference on food, nutrition and health, with Ambassador Rice and Senator Booker and Congressman McGovern, all those folks really working on how do we solve hunger? No politics, but how do we bring people together to do something meaningful? And you know, our commitment is, hey, we're gonna do research. We're gonna run these pilots. We're not gonna take a position on policy. It's not our role.
Mitch Frazier (33:13):
We're just gonna give you data. We're gonna give you information from this group. And that becomes really important as you look to the future. So every, every three years this, right, every three years, no, every five years, I'm sorry, Every five years the, Farm Bill comes up and a big portion, 75% of the farm bill is really on these nutrition programs. And so it's really important as we think about innovations, we think about bringing innovation to these really important programs that serve, It's up to us to create these conditions, create these experiences where innovation can happen, and then we can, we can give them to those who are, or, you know, looking at how do we optimize the system. And we had Stacy Dean on our Ag+Bio+Science podcast, she's the deputy under secretary at USDA who oversees all these nutrition programs. So whether that's SNAP, the Food Stamps project that I mentioned, WIC, women, infant, and children, whether it's school lunches, I mean, she is the person. I mean, just to be able to have that conversation, right. To be able to talk about innovation with someone like that and to be able to inspire...
Ting Gootee (34:17):
It was on the ground data.
Mitch Frazier (34:18):
That's right. Like not just, you know, big ideas and thought, but like, hey, here's what we're really finding. Oh, dang. Incredible.
Ting Gootee (34:26):
Yeah. No, that actually reminded me that, you know, particularly on a lot of these public policy side, you know, oftentimes, I don't know how long Farm Bill has been existed, but as to mean it's been for decades and decades, when those policies originally created a program, originally created technology wasn't there to solve the particular needs. The Hunger Tech was a perfect example. The technology evolved to the place today, it can be solved economically.
Mitch Frazier (34:52):
That's right.
Ting Gootee (34:53):
That's the thing you and your Hunger Tech Challenge are trying to prove out from a margin adoption standpoint.
Mitch Frazier (34:59):
So true. And you look at, you look at this opportunity, right? And I, we share this often as a team. We talk about this, you know, we have, we have the luxury of stepping back and saying, Boy, that feels like we could do something there, or that feels like they could do, we could do something there. You know, if you're in the day to day fight, you know, if you're running these nutrition programs, if you are, you know, the one who, you know, sees the single mom, sees the single dad who needs help feeding their kids, you don't have the luxury to step back and say, Boy, you know, we should, we should think about tech innovation here. It doesn't mean they're not doing it, but it's a very different demand of someone. It's a very different calling than for us to be able to come alongside to partner with, in this case, Indiana Family Social Service administration, who administers Snap here in the state and say, How can we help? Right? How you do what you do, and we're, we wanna learn from you, we want to help you. This is about how do we, how do we empower people to serve better? And how do we do that in a way that is ultimately durable? And that's, that's just a, it's a really good place to be.
Ting Gootee (35:56):
Yeah. That's terrific. And you talked a lot about innovation, again, putting my partner of prior venture investing hat on. You know, innovation obviously needs to be supported through not just the public policy, even programs like what your team are doing, but more importantly, from just fundamental business side, the talent, the customer development, and oftentimes capital. But again, when you're small and growing, and how do you see a development of these dimensions in the ag community? Both on the corporate side and the public sector side and the startup support side.
Mitch Frazier (36:30):
You know, I look at the work that you and the team and Elevate really pioneered, of being that early stage capital catalyst. You know, we see massive, opportunity there. You know, as we talk with companies, you know, as we, we make the connections between small co and big co, one of the things we often talk about is capital. Cause you have to, Right? It's part of the story...
Ting Gootee (36:51):
Follow the money.
Mitch Frazier (36:53):
. But, but to have a, to have a partner like Elevate, to be able to bring them to Elevate now under, Chris Day's, Toph's leadership, just really some really interesting work there. So I think that's a big piece. But also now what we're seeing is this, you know, a syndicate really being built not necessarily deal-by-deal, but in this area, you know, we have, you know, a great leader in Cleveland Avenue. Cleveland Avenue, a Chicago-based venture fund focused entirely on food and ag led by the former CEO of McDonald's. Right? And there is. Randall Lewis is the guy here in Indiana. He is based here, and, you know, is eager to find deals, find opportunities, and really work with these young companies. You know, we have great venture investors here in Allos and High Alpha, all the folks that are, you know, known to the SaaS ecosystem, the tech ecosystem.
Mitch Frazier (37:44):
But what we're doing is we're seeing, you know, those pieces be really strong. You know, the folks at Allos just made an investment attraction ag that we talked about earlier, but these other investors, these out-of-state investors now seeing Indiana as a place where innovation can happen, I think that's a really important piece. Then maybe the last ones, we think about the policy and the government connection under Brad Chamber's leadership at the end of the economic development corporation. I mean, Secretary Chambers just a brilliant guy by definition. But his team's focus on growth. He team's focus on what he calls his "Five E Strategy", really all netted out. How do we build the economy of the future. And he sees clearly the work at TechPoint, clearly the work at AgriNovus being a big piece of that, because these are the economies, these are the kinds of jobs, these are the kinds of things that, you know, know we can do uniquely here in Indiana.
Mitch Frazier (38:36):
And I would argue we can do better than anybody else on the planet. And that's those kinds of connections, right? Whether it's capital, whether it's connections into IDC and others, we're well positioned to be able to do it. And I think the work that we're able to do between TechPoint and AgriNovus and many others is just unique. You know, if you're a company from, I think about a young company, NanoBio Designs, it was an Iowa-based company who had connections into a board member of ours at AgriNovus, sort of friend of a friend kind of thing. And when he came here, you know, when he visited, Ryan, the CEO or COO came here, you know, he had a whole day pact of different connections to big co's and small co's and capital. Like where else are you gonna do that?
Mitch Frazier (39:19):
Right? And it's not because that's not a backpack for AgriNovus or for me, it's what we do. And I think that the ability that we have to do that and think thanks to those who have been a supporter of CICP, Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, of TechPoint, of AgriNovus, those who serve on our boards, those who sponsor events, you know, those things are always great, but what they make possible, the, when, when you put dollars into these things, the output are things like that. Where we can create a really unique experience for Ryan. And ultimately Ryan has now moved his company to Indiana and he's building the innovation that will happen here. Those the kinds of things that are possible.
Ting Gootee (39:53):
Yeah. You are spot on. I referenced a couple of different times, follow the money, but yeah, money is also not in terms, just in terms, not just in terms of check, but more importantly all of everybody's time, energy, support. We often say, even in my back and in Elevate days we never really wanna attract a company just because we can write a them a check. We want them to move here because it makes sense from a holistic business perspective. So that unique experience you had just mentioned, whether it's home homegrown companies, you're supporting the homegrown companies as well as attracting out state company, potentially looking at Indiana. It's that talent connection piece. And customer connection piece. Strategic partner connection piece, the public sector support piece. And last but not least, the capital piece. It's a total package that makes a difference. And ultimately will lead them to say, yes, I can see Indiana being the long term home for my company. That's terrific.
Mitch Frazier (40:49):
Right? I think that's the piece where I think we, we are...
Ting Gootee (40:53):
But, but the fact we have organizations actively putting that package together, that's a differentiator.
Mitch Frazier (40:58):
It's a differentiator. And all of us know that we have to continue to do better. Right? We have to find new approaches to capital. We have to find new approaches to connectivity. We have to do things, we have to work together to go tackle these opportunities. And that healthy, sort of desire to always do better is one that I think is just a fun sort of unification effort that is happening across, whether it's your board members, my board members, our internal organizations, you know, we constantly want to push ourselves, okay, great, how do we do more? How do we do better? How do we make these connections? How do we hit our $4 billion target? But those kinds of things, that's unique, right?
Ting Gootee (41:41):
And it's not just lip service.
Mitch Frazier (41:45):
No it's real.
Ting Gootee (41:46):
Right? There are these people are professional, successful professionals, busy professionals invested in their time to do this with you for no financial game on their own. They're purely doing it for the community return.
Mitch Frazier (41:59):
Yeah. Which is awesome.
Ting Gootee (42:00):
Which is awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming today.
Mitch Frazier (42:03):
Oh gosh, Thank you.
Ting Gootee (42:04):
Anything exciting for 2023 before?
Mitch Frazier (42:06):
Lots of things. Lots of things. Exciting for 2023 t you know, I look at our pipeline as we talk about this 4 billion target by 2024 pipelines healthy as it's ever been. Knock on wood. We're gonna see some big, big moves here in the future. And that's exciting to me. The work that's happening across those three areas, innovation, whether it's sustainability, automation, or PureTech, I think we're gonna see a lot of innovation there. And then lastly, just this, right? I mean, what I'm so excited about 2023 is how do we link arms more? How do we find, you know, how do we find the next innovator that is maybe listening today who, you know, they're in a company. They love what they're doing, but they have a desire to go work in sustainability. They have a desire to go do something in food. Okay, well, that's not a loss for one and gain for the other. That's a net gain for the entire, entire,
Ting Gootee (42:57):
Hopefully to say, I need help. And who can I, who can I, And it can be us. Who can I help you? We could be one of those people.
Mitch Frazier (43:02):
That's right. So I am, I am looking forward to 2023, and I can't, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna end here without saying thank you. Your move from Elevate to say, hey, look, I'm gonna hang up my chief investment officer hat to come lead TechPoint. I know, certainly for me and for many others all across this economy, just a giant thank you. Your leadership, your passion, your focus, your experience, it is a massive benefit to not just a TechPoint, not just a CICP, but Indiana. So thanks for doing what you're doing.
Ting Gootee (43:32):
Well, thank you. It's a team sport, as you mentioned. I'm so thrilled to be part of the team here.
Mitch Frazier (43:37):
I'm grateful you are.
Ting Gootee (43:38):
You are. Thank you.


In today's episode, we talk to Mitch Frazier, CEO at AgriNovus.  Part of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, AgriNovus is a non-profit fueling growth in Indiana’s agbioscience community. Mitch talks about his career and his leadership, the intersection of tech and agbioscience, and what the future holds for the industry.