The Strategic Economic Development Corporation of the Mid-Willamette Valley (SEDCOR) was
recently awarded a $469,150 federal grant through the US Economic Development Administration’s Build to Scale Program for a new grower-centric initiative called theNorthwest Ag Innovation Hub. The Hub is designed to accomplish two main goals: increase the economic competitiveness of the farm and foster an entrepreneurship ecosystem around agriculture and ag-based businesses.
SEDCOR President Erik Andersson believes growers, producers, processors in the region will
greatly benefit from Innovation Hub. He says, “Agriculture in the Mid-Willamette Valley spans over a variety of industries – farming, processing, equipment manufacturing, logistics – and provides a unique opportunity to encourage creative thinking and innovation to solve
problems. This provides SEDCOR with a unique strategy to differentiate us from other economic development organizations in the Pacific Northwest.”
SEDCOR has a strong track record of supporting the ag industry throughout the Mid-Valley
Region; the NW Ag Innovation Hub initiative is building on SEDCOR’s experience, along with the past two years of work that Alex Paraskevas, the Polk County Rural Innovation Catalyst, has
done to promote ag innovation in the City of Independence and Polk County.
According to Paraskevas, “This project builds on the work we’ve been doing for years in Polk
County and Independence. We got support from the Ford Family Foundation, the City of
Independence, and Polk County to launch events like the Ag Innovation Challenge, a design
sprint that brought together technologists from around the world with local farmers to quickly
build farmer-led solutions to common problems.”
The Northwest Ag Innovation Hub will be expanding networking, events, and solution-ideation
programs throughout the region SEDCOR serves: Polk, Marion, and Yamhill Counties.
SEDCOR and its partners will be creating a regional farmer network to bring together those in
the ag supply chain who are excited about innovation in their industry. The Innovation Hub will
also be hosting regular events (virtual and possibly in-person) to give technologists, software
developers, and entrepreneurs a chance to work directly with farmers and bring their technical
knowledge to agricultural problems.
Additionally, this program will allow regional farmers into a national farmer network through
AgLaunch, a nationwide nonprofit based out of Memphis, Tennessee that connects entrepreneurs with growers and forge farms of the future capable of meeting the demand of growing population.
The Northwest Ag Innovation Hub will work differently. According to Paraskavas, “One goal
would be to combine two worlds--agriculture and technology--and facilitate solutions that would
increase efficiency and drive down costs, helping the region’s farms, the vast amount of which
are small and family-owned, succeed far into the future.”
He adds, “Through this program, we will be flipping the script on traditional startup and
entrepreneurship activities by turning the farm into the business incubator and the farmer into
the lead consultant and guide.”
Development of the Northwest Ag Innovation Hub will begin immediately. Information about the
Hub, upcoming events, and other information can be found at sedcor.com.
Numerous partners have made the Innovation Hub possible. The Ford Family Foundation, the
City of Independence, Polk County, Marion County, Yamhill County, Technology Association of
Oregon, Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, AgLaunch, and AgVentures Alliance.