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Gates Foundation picks St. Louis as HQ for new agriculture nonprofit

The Gates Foundation’s choice of St. Louis for the new agriculture initiative marks another victory for St. Louis’ sprouting agtech sector
Credit: AP
In this photo taken Feb. 1, 2019, Bill and Melinda Gates pose for a photo in Kirkland, Wash. From their perch as the "unofficial deans" of big-ticket philanthropy, it's business as usual for the Gates amid questions about whether altruism by the wealthy is a force for good. They are speaking out as their annual letter reviewing their work and vision is released. This year's note focused on 2018's surprises in the areas where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are involved, including global health and development and U.S. education and poverty. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

ST. LOUIS — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has plans to establish a new nonprofit agriculture center in St. Louis.

The Seattle-based philanthropic organization said in a statement last week that it plans to headquarter its new nonprofit, Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations, in the greater St. Louis area. The nonprofit will be called Gates Ag One and is designed to focus its research on helping “smallholder farmers adapt to climate change and make food production in low- and middle-income countries more productive, resilient, and sustainable.”

“Gates Ag One will collaborate with a diverse community of regional and international public- and private-sector partners, as well as interested governments, to enable the advancement of resilient, yield-enhancing seeds and traits globally and facilitate the introduction of those breakthroughs into specific crops essential to smallholder farmers, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” the Gates Foundation said in its release.

The new nonprofit will be led by Joe Cornelius, a director with the Gates Foundation’s global growth and opportunity division. The foundation said it has not yet determined additional staffing for the new project. It also did not provide details on where specifically the nonprofit will be located within St. Louis.

The Gates Foundation’s choice of St. Louis for the new agriculture initiative marks another victory for St. Louis’ sprouting agtech sector and follows a decision last year by Bunge Ltd., an agriculture, food and ingredients company, to relocate its global headquarters to Chesterfield.

Entrepreneurship and economic development groups over the past two decades have sought to boost St. Louis’ agtech sector around key industry assets. In 2016, officials rolled out 39 North, a 600-acre innovation district unveiled in 2016 that surrounds the Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG Park, Helix Center Biotech Incubator, Yield Lab and Bayer. 

The region is also home to a burgeoning collection of startups focused on agriculture innovations, including Benson Hill, maker of a software platform that uses genetics to help farmers design crops for intended outcomes, such as those that use less water or generate higher yields. Benson Hill has attracted $133 million from investors, with GV, Google's venture arm, among the biggest. 

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