The financing discussions were part of a relationship with a Saudi-U.S. development firm.


Start-ups head to Saudi Arabia for capital

(published by Star Tribune newspaper, written by WENDY LEE)

Kristine Sundberg of Fresh EcoHarvest has struggled to gain the money she needs to prove that her company’s technology to grow fruits and vegetables indoors works.

Sundberg says none of the Minnesota investors she’s talked to over the past year have called the concept a bad idea. But many were too skittish to give the $5 million to $10 million her start-up needs to demonstrate how it can grow produce without sunlight or soil.

Now, she’s seeking that investment in Saudi Arabia.

Fresh EcoHarvest was one of five Minnesota businesses that traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this month as part of a larger initiative by the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota to improve investment in start-ups. The companies went for a variety of reasons, whether it was to find a distributor or clinical site, set up a strategic partnership or land financing.

The BioBusiness Alliance set up a business relationship with Al Khaymah Establishment USA, a Saudi-U.S. development firm. The other participating Minnesota companies were ethanol production systems manufacturer Easy Energy Systems, diagnostics firm Ativa Medical, drug development company Exsulin Corp., and molecular engineering company Odin Industries.

The alliance is targeting companies involved in agriculture, water, renewable energy, health care and pharmaceuticals. Al Khaymah would be paid based on its performance if a Minnesota company lands a deal in Saudi Arabia.

Our Take:
What’s wrong with this picture?

Minnesota companies, including modular small-scale ethanol production technology manufacturer Easy Energy Systems, can’t get the capital they need to grow their business in-state or even inside the country. At the same time, Minnesota exports nearly 90 percent of its transportation energy dollars.

How about spending more of our energy dollars here in Minnesota — the returns would be capital to fuel growth for these promising new companies.

Can there be a more compelling argument for a much more comprehensive American energy policy that makes domestic, renewable energy production the next Apollo project?

Ask any business in Minnesota what is the biggest issue for economic development and they will tell you capital availability–the lack of it– is the number one challenge.

That makes Minnesota’s homegrown ethanol a jobs issue, a pro-business issue, and an element of future economic AND environmental sustainability for our state.

If you starve corn ethanol, the livestock industry and other industries that produce Minnesota’s capital, you are heading off a greener future for all of us.


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