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Source: Wells Fargo news release

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), today announced that RNAissance Ag LLC has been selected as one of five companies nationally to participate in the incubator's first agtech cohort - the program's fifth cohort.

RNAissance Ag, a company formed by TechAccel and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, was selected for its innovations in developing technologies to produce food more sustainably. RNAissance Ag - pronounced "Renaissance" - is a biotechnology startup focused on delivering RNA-based insecticides for crop protection.

In selecting RNAissance Ag for the inaugural agtech cohort, IN2's goal is to advance technologies that reduce agriculture's carbon, energy and water impact, which collectively account for as much as 70 percent of water and 14 percent of energy usage worldwide. As a benefit of participation in the program, RNAissance Ag will receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding to test and advance its technologies with experts at the Danforth Center, the world's largest independent plant science institute.

"This is a terrific validation of our potential with this novel technology," said Michael Helmstetter, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of TechAccel. "The IN2 support will help us advance the design for our first two insect pest targets and fuel us along the development pathway more rapidly."

Launched in 2014 with an initial focus on supporting scalable solutions to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings, IN2 expanded its focus in 2018 to advance innovations in agtech, or the application of software and hardware technology to farming. In launching this first agriculture cohort, IN2 seeks to help the agricultural sector overcome the substantial challenges, barriers and costs of implementing new technologies and to speed their paths to market.

"Wells Fargo is excited to be supporting and nurturing innovations that will ultimately lead to more sustainable and productive agriculture," said Ramsay Huntley, Clean Technology and Innovation Philanthropy program officer for Wells Fargo. "As one of the largest lenders to the agriculture and agricultural technology sectors, Wells Fargo will bring its expertise to the table in de-risking these early-stage startups and help move them to the next level."

Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at NREL, noted that the companies involved with IN2 might be small companies, but they're not solving small problems. "RNAissance Ag was an extremely strong applicant, and we cannot wait to see the strides they make by being a part of our program," she said.

The Danforth Center's Noah Fahlgren, Ph.D., director of Bioinformatics and a principal investigator, will work with RNAissance Ag technology inventors, who are also from the Danforth Center: Bala Venkata, Ph.D., senior research scientist and Nigel Taylor, Ph.D., associate member, and Dorothy J. King Distinguished Investigator at the Danforth Center.

"The Danforth Center has been a driver in the growth of agriculture innovation for 20 years," said Claire Kinlaw, director of Innovation Commercialization at the Danforth Center. "We look forward to leveraging the IN2 model and working with these early-stage companies to accelerate their technologies to commercialization."

As an invitation-only program, IN2 finds and selects companies through its Channel Partners, a curated network of incubators, accelerators and universities across the U.S. that refer startups to the program. Once referred, companies participate in a highly competitive application and selection process to determine which will be invited into the next cohort of participants. For a complete list of IN2 portfolio companies, visit

"These five companies are driving innovation and new breakthroughs that will ultimately improve the way that we grow, make food, distribute and consume food and use resources," said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer at the Danforth Center. "We are proud to be a strategic partner helping to accelerate promising technologies that tackle these critical challenges."

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