UVA Darden-Supported Startup Taking Sustainable Farming World by Storm

By Jay Hodgkins

With roots growing from a summer of development in the 2017 i.Lab Incubator program — now known as VentureLab — at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, sustainable farming startup Beanstalk is bearing fruit.

That would be $1 million in fruit from investors to launch its first farm in Lorton, Virginia, using proprietary robotics and software to produce kale, spinach and romaine.

UVA Today provided an update on the i.Lab-supported startup, founded by UVA alumnus Jack Ross and his brother, Michael, which also received $25,000 in seed money from Darden and the i.Lab by winning the 2018 Kathryne Carr Award.

With entrepreneurial grants from UVA and money they had been awarded from various business competitions and saved through their jobs, the Rosses built their first robotic farming prototypes in the spring of 2017.

The Rosses then joined the Darden School of Business’ i.Lab — which is now called the VentureLab incubator program — to continue working on the company.

“Just being in the space around other entrepreneurs and being exposed to that kind of energy was so helpful in those early days,” Jack Ross said. “They would always provide encouragement — perhaps when a prototype didn’t work as expected. And also to have that physical space to build our prototype in the i.Lab was valuable.”

Construction is underway to move the i.Lab from its existing location in Sponsors Hall to the heart of Darden’s core academic building. When the renovation is complete, the new i.Lab space will host the VentureLab summer accelerator as well as other programs, while providing resources and cutting-edge facilities that include a large flat classroom, shared workspaces, collaboration spaces and makerspaces.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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