This Incubator Helps Entrepreneurs Launch Sustainable Food and Farm Startups


“Are you interested in sustainable food and agriculture? Do you have an idea for a food or farm startup but lack the necessary business knowledge to get started? Do you want to improve access to healthy foods for more people while reducing our reliance on conventional agriculture? Do you want to meet and network with others who share your passions?”

These are some of the questions posed to potential candidates by Local Food Lab, an incubator program that supports entrepreneurs interested in launching sustainable food or farm startups. The idea for the program was first developed by Krysia Zajonc (a student at the time) at Columbia Business School’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center. Once a small business owner herself, Zajonc was inspired to help entrepreneurs build their startups into scalable businesses that would hopefully address a social problem in the food system.

“Ultimately our goal is to enable entrepreneurs across the country and around the world to kick-start their local food economies,” said Zajonc. “New food and farm startups are just as crucial to a sustainable future as new tech startups, and we want to give a diverse group of entrepreneurs the access they need to have a big impact.”

Eight entrepreneurs “graduated” from the pilot course, which ran successfully in early summer at Local Food Lab’s Palo Alto campus. Now Zajonc, and co-founder Mateo Aguilar, are working on a second course that will be held from October 8 – November 14 (tuition is $2500). The application deadline for the program is September 10; candidates that apply before August 24 will be eligible for a scholarship.

During the Fall Startup Accelerator Program, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to brainstorm and network with fellow peers and industry experts; develop their ideas at Local Food Lab’s onsite test kitchen; pitch their business plan to potential investors; and attend Stanford University’s Annual Food Summit. According to course guidelines, the goal of the program is ultimately to educate entrepreneurs on “vital business concepts such as market and industry analysis,  product and service design, financial forecasting, sales and marketing strategy, development of a social mission statement, management of a mission aligned team, and the effective pitch and presentation of a new business.”

“Our vision for Local Food Lab includes incentivizing our graduates and mentors to continuously work together and collaborate after our accelerator ends,” said Aguilar. “We’re growing a large support network for food and farm startups that, until now, has not existed.”

Photo courtesy of Local Food Labs

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