USDA certifies business investment fund

To help capitalize small rural businesses


WASHINGTON, May 18, 2017 – Acting Deputy Under Secretary Roger Glendenning today announced that USDA has certified the Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV LP as an investment pool for small and startup rural businesses.

“This certification is another tool USDA provides to help rural businesses, to create jobs and to attract private-sector capital to rural communities,” Glendenning said. “Geography should not be a barrier to economic success. This pool will offer rural business owners the same access to capital as their counterparts in metropolitan areas.”

The fund will support 30 to 45 companies that have the potential to generate more than $200 million in economic activity and create 600 jobs. It will provide capital for high-growth companies in the biosciences, technology and agricultural technology industries. The fund is the second USDA has certified under the Rural Business Investment Program (RBIP). RBIP funds support USDA’s strategy for rural economic growth.

For a fund to receive USDA certification, its managers must demonstrate that they have venture capital experience and that they have successfully worked with community development organizations.

The Ag Innovation Fund is being managed by Innova Memphis RBIC, LLC. Innova has three other funds that are not part of the Rural Business Investment Program. Those three funds collectively have invested $20 million in 75 startup companies, attracted $90 million of outside capital and created approximately 250 jobs.

Farm Credit System members are contributing $31 million to the Ag Innovation Fund. The Farm Credit System is a nationwide network of banks and lenders specifically chartered to serve agriculture and the U.S. rural economy.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; homeownership; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit

Innova Memphis, an early-stage venture capital firm, has announced the close of its latest fund, Innova Ag Innovation Fund IV. As part of the USDA’s Rural Business Investment Program, the fund has been certified and licensed to operate as a Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC). The $31 million fund will focus on early-stage investments anchored in rural America, and will work with various national farm organizations and other partners to identify, enable and accelerate companies with high growth potential in the rapidly expanding AgTech sector.

This will be the firm’s fourth fund since its founding in 2007 by Memphis Bioworks, and will build on the firm’s track record in early-stage venture capital, as well as further expand its ecosystem partnership model. A key partner will be AgLaunch, a venture development organization, accelerator and farmer network organization, which focuses on a farm-centric commercialization model for agricultural innovation.

“We are very excited to start investing and look forward to meeting with founders and network partners to identify investment opportunities,” says Innova partner Jan Bouten. “The fund will make that often critical, initial investment to assist promising startups on their path toward commercialization and scalable growth, all while creating opportunities and jobs in rural America.”

The fund focus will be investments in novel, technology-based solutions to solve real-world problems faced by today’s farmers. Located in the heart of the Delta region, Innova is perfectly situated to cover opportunities across the nation, while taking advantage of the rich natural resources, expertise, and infrastructure around Memphis. Some of the target investment areas are:

•Farming technology, equipment and enabling innovation, including robotics

•New technologies pertaining to crop production, harvest, storage, supply chain/logistics and processing/productivity tools and software

•Areas of precision agriculture such as crop, water and chemicals management

•Innovations addressing food security, safety and nutrition challenges

•Novel animal health and welfare systems and practices