ST. LOUIS — Benson Hill, with the assistance of St. Louis-based venture capital firm Lagomaj Capital, has broken ground on a new Crop Accelerator, a controlled-environment research facility that will allow plant breeders to develop varieties up to four years faster than traditional research facilities, according to St. Louis-based Benson Hill.
The Crop Accelerator will allow for the rapid development of feed, food and ingredients for farmers and food companies. The 47,000-square-foot facility near the company’s headquarters will feature 20,000 square feet of Conviron growth houses and chambers equipped with multi-channel LEDs, additive carbon dioxide, temperature, humidity and lighting controls.
“Our philosophy is guided by the idea that capital is fuel enabling people to do great things and driving innovative solutions to major challenges,” said Felix Williams, founder of Lagomaj Capital. “Our investment in the Crop Accelerator is a physical representation of our belief in the impact that Benson Hill’s technology and model can have on the health and sustainability of food and agriculture. We are proud to be developing a facility of this scale and prestige in our hometown.”
Benson Hill also said Mark Matlock, Gary Fogel, PhD, and Julia Bailey-Serres, PhD, will join the company’s scientific advisory board.
Mr. Matlock, who authored or co-authored 10 US patents and was senior vice president of research for ADM, will help in developing insights between plant genetics and consumer benefits. Dr. Fogel, chief executive officer of Natural Selection, Inc., will work in food innovation and on CropOS, Benson Hill’s technology platform designed to accelerate and scale the delivery of novel plant-based food and ingredient options. Dr. Bailey-Serres, a distinguished professor of genetics at the University of California, Riverside, will offer guidance on leveraging the genomic diversity of plants to help solve challenges in the food system.
“The Crop Accelerator facility will allow Benson Hill to bypass the delays of seasonal field testing by coupling this state-of-the-art facility with our CropOS technology platform, further leveraging the power of both plant science and data science with AI/ML predictive crop performance algorithms,” said Jason Bull, PhD, chief technology officer of Benson Hill. “With the addition of world-class scientific talent that traverses the food science, data science and plant biology fields, we are creating food that is better from the beginning by design and intent.”