Wabash Heartland Innovation Network is launching an agtech pilot in southwest Indiana. WHIN says it will partner with AgriNovus Indiana and business incubator The Pantheon in Knox County to expand into southern Indiana.

The organization says the expansion pilot study will allow for WHIN’s work to benefit an additional region by developing the multi-county region as a “living laboratory for agricultural-directed technology.”

“WHIN’s strategy of connecting innovators and entrepreneurs with progressive local farmers aligns perfectly with The Pantheon’s mission of fostering a community that develops and supports entrepreneurs and businesses in Knox County,” said Nichole Like, president of The Pantheon. “The collaboration between WHIN and The Pantheon will serve as a connection between local producers who are ready to test new tech on their farms and the strong innovation network of WHIN to drive access to that new technology.”

The organization says Knox County ranks No. 1 in melon and vegetable crop production in Indiana and is in the top 3% of all counties nationwide that grow these specialty crops. According to the United State Department of Agriculture, Knox County farmers grow over 4,300 acres of melons and nearly 9,000 acres of other specialty crops annually.

WHIN says the area’s ecosystem is a “great opportunity for technology startups searching for early customers in the specialty crop sector.”

“Southwest Indiana’s strength in diverse agricultural production and its community of progressive producers make it an ideal destination for this multi-organization pilot,” said Mitch Frazier, chief executive officer of AgriNovus Indiana. “Together this pilot creates an opportunity for us to work with local producers and innovators to connect and inspire the solutions needed to accelerate growth.”

The pilot study will be a one-year partnership beginning in 2021. If successful, WHIN says an expansion to Daviess, Dubois, Gibson, Perry, Pike, Posey, Spencer, Sullivan, Vanderburgh, and Warrick counties is likely.