Published On: 01/29/2021Categories: AgTech, Entrepreneurs, Talent

Purdue Program Seeks to Grow Ag Entrepreneurship

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WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue University is launching a program designed to help faculty and other entrepreneurs at the university on the path to commercialization. Purdue says the faculty ambassador program will include an innovation and entrepreneurship fellow, who will mentor faculty and students looking to bring their ideas to market. Christian Butzke, professor of food science at Purdue and co-founder of VinSense, has been selected as the inaugural fellow for the program.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Butzke said the idea was born out of a need for a more systematic approach to entrepreneurship at Purdue, particularly in agriculture.

“(We want) to really create this culture of entrepreneurship, a scholarship of entrepreneurship that really involves all the hundreds of faculty members that we have in the College of Agriculture,” said Butzke. “Purdue is such a diverse and powerful university that we’re really trying to create this, what we call a commercialization engine at Purdue.”

Butzke says the program aims to help solve the world’s problems surrounding agriculture, such as food security and food safety.

“There’s a lot of interest in agriculture, in digital agriculture, in plant sciences to create something that benefits society at large,” he said.

The program is still in the early planning phases, but Butzke says they are looking to have a cohort of ambassadors from each department in the College of Agriculture that can recruit and encourage their fellow faculty members and graduate students to be engaged in entrepreneurship and innovation.

Graduates from the Entrepreneurial Learning Academy at Purdue will also be involved to tell the story of how innovation and entrepreneurship can elevate the university and its impact.

“We hope to get a lot of support from the state, from venture capitalists that are investing in Purdue technology and in startups, so there are a lot of things that have to come together, I think, financially as well,” said Butzke. “This is a start to have a systematic approach to entrepreneurship, to really create this pipeline of new ideas, of new companies that can really make a difference to our economy here.”

Organizers are also developing metrics to determine the success of the program.

Butzke says the goal is to get everyone involved, from professors to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

“In the end, I think we want to have inner city kids from Gary take jobs in modern agriculture and maybe start their own businesses or improve food production and agriculture here in our state or in the entire Midwest. I think in having somebody like me with experience both in industry as well as academia, bringing all those ends together, I think that’s a wonderful concept.”

The program, which will work throughout the West Lafayette campus, is being coordinated through the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.