Fast-growing agtech startup plots new headquarters in 39 North innovation district

Nathan Rubbelke | May 07, 2019

St. Louis Inno editor St. Louis Business Journal

article originally appeared

Fast-growing agtech startup BensonHill Biosystems is solidifying its roots in St. Louis with plans to establish its headquarters in a new facility on the campus of the Donald Danforth PlantScience Center in Creve Coeur.

Benson Hill will take up the majority of the planned 160,000-square-foot EDGE@BRDG building, which is being developed by Chapman Ventures. Benson Hill currently operates locally out of 18,000 square feet in the Helix Center Biotech Incubator, adjacent to the Danforth Center.

Larry Chapman, president of Chapman Ventures, said plans call for construction to begin in July and for the facility to come online in April 2020. The new building will include flexible research laboratories, shared workspaces and common areas.

“The original plan was to continue growing on the footprint that we had, but when we started modeling out what we needed to accomplish from a goals standpoint and growth standpoint, frankly, this was the best opportunity,” said Benson Hill co-founder and CEO Matt Crisp. “We looked at multiple sites around the region, and this provided by far the best opportunity and keeps us on the campus that we were really born in and is super accessible to the greenhouses.”

Benson Hill was founded in 2012 and its technology aims to identifies the most promising genetics for a targeted outcome, using predictive analytics to help improve crop varieties with better accuracy and efficiency than traditional breeding methods.The company’s planned expansion comes as it is growing its product development efforts and accelerating commercialization.The 117-employee startup expects massive headcount growth in the upcoming years, with plans for 300 employees to be located inits new facility.

Benson Hill got its start in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and has since moved nearly all of its operations to St. Louis. The firm still has a few employees based in North Carolina, according to Crisp, who said Tuesday that Benson Hill is winding down operations there.

The new headquarters follows a recent $65 million Series C round closed by Benson Hill that was led by GV, which was formerly known as Google Ventures and is the venture capital arm ofAlphabet Inc. That financing brought Benson Hill’s total capital raised since its founded to more than $100 million. Over the past year, Benson Hill has inked a number of significant partnerships aimed at improving crop quality and sustainability, including deals with the University of California – Davis, Anheuser-Busch InBev andMars Inc. In March, the startup announced it acquired the assets of Schillinger Genetics, an Iowa-based soybean seed breeder and producer.

Benson Hill’s new facility will be included in the 39 North agtech innovation district, which is a 600-acre district surrounding the Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG Park, Helix Incubator, Yield Lab and Bayer. Officials last week unveiled renderings for a key 39 North infrastructure project that includes redesigning Old Olive Street Road to make it more pedestrian-friendly and to have it serve as main street for the district.