KENNESAW, Ga. | January 12, 2023
A company founded by researchers at Kennesaw State University to improve the process of growing specialty mushrooms has won a People’s Choice Award and finished among four finalists in the Ag Innovation Challenge sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
MycoLogic, co-founded by assistant professor of microbiology Chris Cornelison and postdoctoral researcher Kyle Gabriel, received the most votes in an online poll of 10 agriculture-based startups to earn the award. Companies competed for more than $165,000 in prize money at the AFBF event in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“To win a People’s Choice Award, to have your people show up — the university, sponsors, friends, family — that’s an incredible level of validation,” Cornelison said. “The ecosystem at KSU and in Georgia has supported us to the point where we have this incredible opportunity to champion large-scale mushroom cultivation.”
A company dedicated to the technology of automated mushroom production, MycoLogic, emerged from the BioInnovation Lab at the KSU Faculty of Science and Mathematics. Specifically, MycoLogic enables farmers to grow larger quantities and better quality of specialty mushrooms in 40-foot containers equipped to create conditions optimized for growth.
MycoLogic won $10,000 for advancing to the semi-finals of the Ag Innovation Challenge, $5,000 for advancing to the finals, and $5,000 for the People’s Choice Award. Through the competition, Cornelison and Gabriel also participated in pitch training and mentorship with scholars from Cornell University’s College of Business, as well as networking with representatives from USDA rural enterprise investment companies.
MycoLogic was supported by the Georgia Research Alliance’s Greater Yield Initiative, which supports university start-ups focused on agricultural and food technology. In addition, MycoLogic has benefited from financial and resource support from the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Georgia Innovation Center.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has held the Ag Innovation Challenge for nine years, championing entrepreneurs and organizations that want to address challenges facing farmers, such as labor access and yield optimization. From hundreds of applications, AFBF narrowed the selection down to 10 semi-finalists, who presented their visions to a panel of experts on January 6. The competition went to online voting on January 7 before the four finalists made another appearance the following day.
Cornelison said he will put the prize money won from the Ag Innovation Challenge into marketing efforts for MycoLogic, as well as the final design elements for MycoLogic’s first product offering. He said MycoLogic has a waiting list of 22 customers after the first unit was delivered last fall.
“For Kyle and I, it’s a new world,” he said. “We are fortunate to have great mentorship and funding from GRA, GDA and Innovation Centers, as well as support from our University, so we are ready for the fundraising and networking rounds to come this year. It’s hard not to have an advantage with all those supports lined up for us.”
Cornelison also thanked MycoLogic staff Will Beeson and Luc Lalire, who joined the company in recent months. Beeson earned a master’s degree in integrated biology from KSU in December, and Lalire joined after earning a master’s degree in controlled environment agriculture from Cornell University last August.
– Author: Dave Shelles
Photos by Jason Getz
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global connections and entrepreneurial spirit attract students from across the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie Doctoral Research Institution (R2), placing it in an elite group of only 7 percent of US colleges and universities with R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.