By Ryan Deffenbaugh, Westchester County Business Journal
A new agribusiness accelerator program wants to help farmers and food and drink entrepreneurs scale their businesses.
The Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corp. an economic development agency based in Hudson, announced earlier in June that it was looking for applicants for the first session of its new Farm and Food Business Accelerator Program.
The program is marketed as an annual way to help farmers or entrepreneurs who may have a product, but not the access to capital and resources to scale up and find a market.
“It’s a curriculum and program for entrepreneurs and farm businesses that feeds them toward accessing capital and financing, with the ultimate goal of making the business or entrepreneur pitch-able,” said Todd Erling, the executive director of the HVADC.
The program runs for six months, starting in October, and ends with the chance for farmers and entrepreneurs to pitch funders in spring 2017. The curriculum will feature online training, one-on-one mentoring and networking events aimed at helping the participants learn to find market opportunities and pitch investors. Events are planned for the HVADC offices in Hudson, as well as locations throughout the Hudson Valley.
To be considered for the program, applicants must be a farm or agriculture-dependent business with farm or production facilities in the Hudson Valley, according the HVADC. The exact definition of the Hudson Valley appears flexible, however. Companies from Westchester to Saratoga counties have inquired, Erling said, and all will be considered as long as they show a willingness to travel for accelerator events.
The HVADC won a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture it will put toward launching the program, along with the HVADC’s own funds and resources.
Erling envisions the program as part of a growing community of farmers and food entrepreneurs in the region.
“As our participants graduate and move into successfully attaining finances and growing their business, we hope to bring them back as alumni each year and they could then be the mentors and experts,” Erling said.” And through more capacity in the ecosystem, we can help grow a thriving local food system.”
So far, Erling said the HVADC has heard from craft beverage entrepreneurs, farmers looking to expand, food distributors and a mix of other food-related businesses. The agency expects to take on between eight and 10 businesses for the first accelerator program.
Businesses interested in applying for the accelerator can do so, for a $15 fee, through August 15 at the HVADC’s website, hvadc.org. Accepted businesses will be notified in September.
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