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Cooperative Ventures Launches Fund for Agriculture Innovation

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Touchdown Ventures is proud to announce our relationship with CHS and GROWMARK to help manage Cooperative Ventures, their jointly owned agriculture-focused corporate venture capital fund. Below you can read about Cooperative Ventures and its initial press release, which is also published here.

-Beth Kearns

What’s the news

Cooperative Ventures is a $50 million investment fund, formed as a joint venture between CHS and GROWMARK, two of North America’s largest farmer-owned agriculture supply cooperatives. The fund is focused on startups with innovative solutions that will help define the future of agriculture for farmers and the cooperative system.

Why it matters

CHS and GROWMARK collectively cover millions of acres and thousands of farmers across North America. The fund was launched to fuel innovations that can positively impact farmer-owned cooperatives and enable a sustainable food supply chain. In addition to capital, Cooperative Ventures leverages the power of the cooperatives’ deep industry expertise, direct access to farmers, and valuable resources to help startups grow and succeed. Ultimately, this effort matters because farmers grow the crops that feed the world.

Who it’s for

The fund works with innovative startup entrepreneurs and venture capital investors who can generate mutual value with farmers and agriculture cooperatives in North America. The fund invests in four “fields of play”: (1) crop production: crop nutrients & protections, seed technology & genetics, precision agriculture, and crop biologicals; (2) supply chain: last-mile logistics products and services; (3) sustainability: sustainable farming methods, carbon markets, regulatory monitoring & reporting; (4) farmer business enablement: technologies and solutions helping farmers better operate their businesses.

ST. PAUL, Minn. and BLOOMINGTON, Ill., Nov. 17, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — GROWMARK and CHS today announced the formation of Cooperative Ventures, a new capital fund that will focus on creating advancements in breakthrough technologies for the agriculture industry. The fund will provide differentiated value to startups in the agricultural ecosystem by leveraging the expansive, connected networks, unparalleled access to the farmgate and proven success of the two agricultural cooperatives. Both companies will be equal partners in the $50 million fund, which will be established as its own separate legal entity.

The combined markets of the two companies cover millions of acres and thousands of farmers that will create an industry-leading test field for products and services within North America. The fund has identified three core investment areas, or “Fields of Play,” to maximize the impact of each investment: crop production, supply chain, and sustainability.

“This is a terrific opportunity to act cooperatively by working together on a venture meaningful to agriculture and our corresponding supply chains,” said GROWMARK CEO Jim Spradlin. “Both GROWMARK and CHS have trusted relationships and expertise within our networks, which will provide tremendous value for technology startups and ultimately benefit our respective customers. This is a natural evolution of GROWMARK’s AgValidity trial and testing program.”

“This partnership will help accelerate technology solutions to existing and emerging challenges in agriculture and is yet another way CHS creates connections to empower agriculture,” said Jay Debertin, president and CEO of CHS Inc. “Our ongoing commitment to investment in growth and innovation for the benefit of CHS owners and the cooperative system further places CHS and GROWMARK at the forefront of cutting-edge technology solutions by leveraging our deep expertise and strong connections with farmer-owners.”

GROWMARK and CHS will provide tech startups unprecedented access to robust distribution capabilities within multiple value chains, allowing for opportunities to test and refine at different scales. Having cooperative member-owners and customers within the same ecosystem will take these innovative ideas to a new level to create shareholder value and customer-focused solutions.

Special attention will be paid to the startup’s strategic fit with both GROWMARK and CHS. Other factors will be based on their drive to lead in the startup space, the ability to deliver value and quality, the experience of management, and ultimately the ability to take a product or service to market. Cooperative Ventures will be comprised of teams based out of Bloomington, Illinois, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

About GROWMARK

GROWMARK is an agricultural cooperative serving almost 400,000 customers across North America, providing agronomy, energy, facility engineering and construction, and logistics products and services, as well as grain marketing and risk management services. Headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois, GROWMARK owns the FS trademark, which is used by its member cooperatives. GROWMARK also owns and operates SEEDWAY, the largest full-line seed company in the United States. More information is available at growmark.com.

About CHS

CHS Inc. (www.chsinc.com) is a leading global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States. Diversified in energy, agronomy, grains and foods, CHS is committed to creating connections to empower agriculture, helping its farmer-owners, customers and other stakeholders grow their businesses through its domestic and global operations. CHS supplies energy, crop nutrients, seed, crop protection products, grain marketing services, production and agricultural services, animal nutrition products, foods and food ingredients, and risk management services. The company operates petroleum refineries and pipelines and manufactures, markets and distributes Cenex® brand refined fuels, lubricants, propane and renewable energy products.

Beth Kearns is a Venture Partner with Touchdown Ventures, a Registered Investment Adviser that provides “Venture Capital as a Service” to help corporations launch and manage their investment programs.

This article includes information from third party sources believed to be reliable; however, we make no representations as to its accuracy or completeness. References to strategies are for illustrative purposes only and should not be relied upon as a recommendation to engage in any particular strategy or to invest in any particular security. Opinions expressed herein are based on current market conditions and may change without notice and we reserve the right to change any part of these materials without notice and assume no obligation to provide an update. Recipients are advised not to infer or assume that any securities, strategies, companies, sectors or markets described will be profitable or that losses will not occur. Any description or information regarding investment process or strategies is provided for illustrative purposes only, may not be fully indicative of any present or future investments and may be changed at the discretion of the manager. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

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