TOPEKA, KAN. — Plug and Play Topeka, a global agricultural innovation platform by GO Topeka, announced March 29 the selection of 11 early-stage animal health and ag-tech industry companies to participate in the fifth cohort of its startup program.

The 11 startups were selected from a pitch competition including companies from around the world, including the United States, United Kingdom, France and Israel. The selected companies span a wide range of industry functions, from supply chain to sustainability to new materials to pet health and wellness, according to GO Topeka. Finalists were chosen by partners of the Plug and Play program, which include Cargill, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Evergy.

“We are already seeing the difference being made by innovative startups going through the Plug and Play program,” said Dave Baloga, vice president of science and technology for Hill's Pet Nutrition. “The latest batch is full of potential, and we look forward to helping advance some of the exciting ideas they bring to the table.”

The startups include:

  • Animoscope, a platform offering veterinary advice for dog and cat owners
  • Aquapak, a supplier bringing multi-functional, circular plastics to the industry
  • Curbicus, a compostable, clean dog waste solution for pet owners
  • FaunaLabs, an insights platform for animal carers seeking to optimize health and wellness through scalable fur-penetrating sensors and AI-driven predictive medicine
  • Okeanos, a company replacing plastic packaging with stone
  • PeelON, a biodegradable packaging supplier touting shelf-life extension benefits
  • Prevera, a water- and food-protecting solution
  • Titan Bioplastics, which offers functional and sustainable materials for a range of industries
  • Treetop Biopak, a sustainable packaging provider focused on compostable offerings
  • Völur, a company aiming to reduce waste and promote sustainability in the meat industry

All 11 startups will participate in Plug and Play’s three-month accelerator program, through which they will benefit from industry connections and resources to jump-start their businesses.

“We are excited to see such diverse startups that showcase how comprehensive the animal health industry is,” said Lindsay Lebahn, senior program manager for Plug and Play Topeka. “Our goal is to help these emerging companies gain valuable resources, mentorship, and partnerships, which can ultimately bring their innovative ideas to market and make a real impact in the animal health industry.”

More specifically, Plug and Play exists to offer business development, mentorship and proof of concept support for global startups in the animal health and ag-tech industries. The accelerator program will be hosted in Topeka, which is central to the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, which, according to GO Topeka, is “the world’s largest concentration of animal health companies and related industries.” More than 300 animal health companies operate in the region between Manhattan, Kan., and Columbia, Mo., including four of the top 10 global animal health companies that make up 56% — or $21.5 billion — of the pet food, animal health and diagnostics products and services sold around the world annually.

“These startups are developing exciting new technologies and products that will enhance the animal health industry,” said Stephanie Moran, senior vice president of innovation for GO Topeka. “We are excited to introduce them to the resources and support available to them in Topeka and hope that they will consider our community for their growth needs as they continue to develop.”

The Plug and Play program was first announced in late 2020 and hosted its inaugural accelerator event in the spring of 2021. Cargill and Hill’s Pet Nutrition have been strong supporters of the program since the beginning.

Following its appearance in Plug and Play’s accelerator program, Cargill partnered StenCo, LLC, a packaging startup offering sustainable, biodegradable materials, to support the company’s development of biodegradable oxygen-excluding barriers for several of its animal health products.

“Cargill is proud to support the Plug and Play Topeka Animal Health accelerator,” said Eric Flanagan, director of emerging products and solutions for Cargill’s North American Protein business. “The startups selected represent some exciting and innovative technologies that have the potential to enhance our work across the food supply chain and make an impact on the animal health corridor.”

Forty-four animal health and ag-tech startups have graduated from Plug and Play’s accelerator platform since its establishment in early 2021. Plug and Play plans to continue offering incubator opportunities for 10 to 12 startups twice a year.

“We’ve been impressed by the depth of the startups going through Topeka’s Plug and Play accelerator,” said Jeff Martin, vice president, customer operations for Evergy. “The latest cohort represents a range of cutting-edge innovations, and we’re eager to see how their products advance through this program.”

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