First-ever FASTCON Brings Out Minnesota’s Food, Ag, and Supply Chain Innovators

John Hogue at FASTCON with the youngest MinneAnalytics member, Amelia.

On Monday, Dec. 9, hundreds braved the snowy weather to participate in FASTCON, MinneAnalytics’ first-ever data science and tech conference focused on food, ag, and supply chain at the Science Museum of Minnesota. More than 1,100 registered for the day-long event, which featured dozens of sessions, as well as panel discussions and a startup showcase.

“What stood out to me at FASTCON was all of the first-timers!” said John Hogue, FASTCON Conference Chair. “There were a lot of speakers from well known Minnesota companies speaking or attending that we don’t always see at our other events.”

Hogue noticed an especially big turnout from companies like Cargill, General Mills, and Land O’ Lakes, who took the opportunity to showcase their technological savvy in the food, agriculture, and supply chain space. Smaller specialist companies were also able to shine at the event.

Another major topic at the conference was sustainability in a changing world, which was brought up frequently during the popular CxO Panel Discussion. Moderator Kerri Miller of MPR asked poignant and direct questions to panelists including the CIO’s of Cargill, General Mills, and Land O’ Lakes, as well as Lisa Schlosser of Technovation, and Amanda Little, author of “The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World.”

“At the Startup Showcase session, we were delighted to hear from ten startups looking to make a big impact in the food, agtech, and supply chain spaces with emerging data, analytics, and AI technology,” said Graeme Thickins, organizer of the showcase. “Though most were Minnesota-based, we had one each from Indiana, Idaho, and Texas, and two of the startups were co-based in Melbourne, Australia, and Bangalore, India. Included in the group were five graduates of the St. Paul-based Techstars Farm to Fork startup accelerator program—two from the 2018 class, and three from the 2019 class.”

During the all-morning session, attendees heard about innovations around enhancing the local food supply chain, the development of antimicrobials to produce safe meat, and solutions to reduce product recall risk—and save lives in the event of product recalls. Other innovations included tools for agronomists to optimally apply fertilizer and maximize farmer profitability, a crop storage and transportation solution that provides full traceability back to the field of origin, a platform to simplify regulatory and certification compliance for food companies, a robotics solution to solve multiple problems in the poultry production industry, and a one-stop smart factory technology implementation solution using open source analytics for manufacturing continuous improvement. View the list of startups here.

Thank you to all who participated in the conference, especially the excellent volunteers, speakers, startups, and sponsors. Many of the conference presentations, including startup pitch decks, can be accessed here.