St. Louis County hopes to attract agricultural technology startups and companies from around the world with the debut of a new innovation district technology incubator called 39 North.
Modeled on the successful Cortex innovation district in midtown St. Louis city that has attracted jobs, development and an IKEA to the Central West End, the county’s new 600-acre technology district, announced Wednesday, will be located in Creve Coeur and border Olivette. The district already includes the existing world headquarters of Monsanto, the Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG — Bio Research and Development Growth — Park and the Helix Center Biotech Incubator.
County officials expect the innovation district to grow and bring jobs to St. Louis County, which continues to dominate the fields of plant science and AgTech — the intersection of agriculture technology and plant science.
“St. Louis County is already recognized as a global hub of plant science research,” County Executive Steve Stenger stated in a news release. “We have the highest concentration in the world of plant science PhDs, and 39 North is a natural extension of an established industry. We will continue to attract emerging AgTech businesses with diverse talent and true vision.”
The name for 39 North comes from the physical latitude of the district at the 39th parallel north. It also marks the coordinates of the prime agriculture belt across the world, according to a news release.
A $500,000 federal planning grant, awarded in May 2015, funded the development of the 39 North project, with visions for a mixed-use development with retail, residential and office space connected by walking and biking trails and green space.
That type of walkable, livable community, planners believe, will attract highly skilled scientific workers to 39 North and to the county.
The county has secured $400,000 in funding for the first project, designing a greenway connection from Monsanto to the Helix Center. A master plan is set to be completed this month.
The St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, or the SLEDP, has been spearheading the planning behind the district for 19 months.
“39 North will attract people and businesses from around the world,” SLEDP CEO Sheila Sweeney stated in the release. “The discoveries made at 39 North will improve the human condition, and we are excited about the possibilities for the district, including tying it in to other agricultural efforts across the state.”
Officials at the Danforth Plant Science Center are active supporters of the development of the district.
“The strategic master plan to develop 39 North is an extension of Dr. (William) Danforth’s vision to make St. Louis a world center for plant science and innovation,” said Sam Fiorello, chief operating officer, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and president, BRDG Park. “By connecting regional assets, improving mobility, creating development opportunities and additional greenspace we will enhance our ability to grow, attract and retain companies and top talent.”
Ag Tech spans research on plants and animals, the development of technical machines and chemicals to improve farming, and improving food production.
“In short, AgTech is about how we use our knowledge of plant science and the latest technology to find better ways to feed the world,” Stenger stated. “There has never been a time when this work was more important.”
The boundaries of the tech district stretch from Bauer Boulevard to the north, the edge of Monsanto’s campus to the south, Warson Road to the east, and Old Olive Street Road to the west.