ACRE Seeks Entrepreneurs in Agriculture

COLUMBIA — Home-grown innovators could get business mentoring and funding through a program aimed at helping South Carolina agribusinesses.

The Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship (ACRE) at the South Carolina Department of Agriculture will accept applications for its 2021 Advanced Entrepreneurship program through May 3, 2021.

Applicants selected will have the opportunity to pitch to a panel of judges in June, competing to be awarded up to $25,000 for their company or product.

“We’re looking to find these small businesses that aren’t traditional and help them a little bit,” says Kyle Player, ACRE’s executive director.

Now in its third year, ACRE has so far awarded nearly $500,000 to 35 entrepreneurs, helped these entrepreneurs secure more than $1 million in grant funding, and provided intensive training to 60 businesses.

Previous awardees have had some notable successes. Barrier Island Oyster Co. is now selling its hand-raised farmed oysters at Whole Foods. Covered In Cotton, a family company that grows cotton to make woven blankets, was overall winner of Garden & Gun’s Made In the South Awards last year. Heron Farms, a company that grows salt-tolerant sea beans, is in production and growing rapidly. And family-owned dairy Nance Farm used ACRE funding to build a creamery from the ground up.

The Advanced Entrepreneurship application requires a business plan and a prototype or sales history for the applicant’s company or product. Applicants must be South Carolina residents. For the first time this year, the application also includes a detailed guide to what ACRE is looking for in a business plan.

ACRE has a separate program each fall for beginning innovators who have an agribusiness idea but don’t have experience in business.

For more information, visit acre-sc.com or contact Kyle Player at 803-734-2324 or kplayer@scda.sc.gov.