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City of Woodland News

Posted on: January 20, 2023

The Lab@AgStart Opens New Wing, Expanding Opportunities for Innovation in Ag, Food, & Health

Yesterday morning, The Lab@AgStart celebrated the opening of a new wing known as the Bayer Lifehub California@AgStart that doubles the facility’s laboratory space, includes new fermentation and tissue culture capabilities, and further expands innovation opportunities in Northern California and throughout the world. 

The Lab@AgStart is an incubator facility in downtown Woodland, California for startup entrepreneurs in the agriculture, food, and health space. It is run by the non-profit AgStart and funded through public-private partnerships. 

The facility includes the Yocha Dehe Lab, the Raley’s Food Lab, the Bayer LifeHub California @AgStart and co-working spaces which provide vital resources for entrepreneurs to commercialize their innovations. Startup entrepreneurs occupying the space are working to increase sustainability and enhance our global food and health systems. 

The Lab@AgStart opened in May 2021 to overwhelming demand. Within just five months, ten startup companies fully occupied the 26 available laboratory benches. While at The Lab@AgStart, these companies have already made a significant positive impact in the region. They have strengthened the workforce by creating 24 new full-time professional jobs and 26 internships. Four of these companies have attracted a total of $46 million in new private capital investment in our region, and three are expanding out of The Lab@AgStart space into their own facilities in the region. 

Gary Sandy, Yolo County Supervisor said, "AgStart has proven to be a great partnership between private industry, the County and the city, and has emerged as one of the most successful business incubators in the region. We look forward to future innovations and economic growth from AgStart.” Ken Hiatt, Woodland’s City Manager and AgStart Board Member, said, “The Lab has already helped innovators tackle some of the most pressing topics in food, ag, and health. The new expansion will only grow AgStart’s impact as well as continue Woodland’s long legacy of food and ag leadership for our region and the world.” 

The Lab@AgStart expansion brings the overall facility from 4,825 sq. ft. to 13,000 sq. ft. This growth more than doubles the laboratory space, increasing the user laboratory benches from 26 to 52, as well as adds additional office space, an AgStart Event Center, and more co-working space. Amanda Portier, AgStart’s Program Director, said “As the largest wet-lab incubator for startup companies in the Central Valley region, this additional space will allow us to welcome new entrepreneurs and increase opportunities for our existing clients. As we grow our AgStart community, we will support more innovation and expand our positive impacts.” 

The new laboratory space will feature a tissue culture lab and fermentation lab – unique technical features that will support even more commercialization needs for clients. Resident innovators like TurtleTree, a cell-based sustainable milk fermentation company, are eager to access these new features. TurtleTree's Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Aletta Schnitzler said "TurtleTree is looking forward to the Lab@AgStart’s expanded laboratory facility and is particularly excited about the new fermentation space. With more laboratory capacity, we are able to hire additional staff and accelerate the commercialization of our innovations."

Bayer, a major global agricultural and pharmaceutical company, has committed to a multiyear sponsorship of AgStart and The Lab@AgStart expansion. J.D. Rossouw, Head of Vegetables R&D at Bayer’s Crop Science Division, said “Bayer is proud to support the flourishing agriculture and food innovation ecosystem in the Greater Sacramento Region. Sponsoring AgStart aligns with Bayer’s mission to make ‘Health for all, hunger for none’ a reality by better equipping our partners in the community with the tools and resources they need to develop the next generation of crops and agricultural solutions along with us.”

Other organizations that support The Lab@AgStart’s mission have also contributed to the expansion through public investment and private sponsorships. Yolo County and the City of Woodland have both contributed as public sponsors. Sakata Seed, Raley's, First Northern Bank, Bright People Foods, the Wiseman Company, Pam Marrone and Michael Rogers have contributed through private sponsorships. Additional anchor sponsors of the initial Lab@AgStart facility also included the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Dowling Family, and others.  

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