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Exclusive: Out-of-state venture firm specializing in research-based startups expands into Houston

A new venture development company has expanded into Houston with a Texas Medical Center office. Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

For an Arkansas-based technology venture development firm that focuses on research-based companies coming out of universities, the Lone Star State was a tempting spot for expansion.

VIC Technology Venture Development has appointed James Y. Lancaster as the Texas branch manager. Lancaster, who lives in College Station, will oversee business there, in Dallas, and in Houston. Locally, he will work out of a TMC Innovation Institute office.

"I am excited to be working to TMC member institutions to provide a new avenue for commercializing their technologies, expanding on our fast start in Texas with an exciting opportunity in the Houston innovation ecosystem," Lancaster says in a release.

VIC specializes in taking university-founded research innovations to the marketplace by partnering with technology and business experts at every stage of the process.

The company already has a presence in Dallas with Dr. Ralph Henry, who is an entrepreneur in residence at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and also serves as VIC's vice president of life science and medical technology. VIC's first Texas portfolio company was Solenic Medical, which was brought on in February of this year.

According to the release, the company's presence in Houston might be similar to that of its arrangement in Dallas, focusing on leveraging the resources of the TMC.

"Our local presence will include new technology assessment and licensing, along with expanding our national investor network. Of course, the end goal is to have a string of startup company successes based on TMC inventions, as well as the potential to license technology from across the country into new companies located in Texas," Lancaster continues in the release.

Lancaster has over 25 years of experience across industries. Prior to VIC, he was the founder and managing director of the Innovate Family of Companies including Innovate CXO Services, Innovate Angel Funds, and Innovate BCS Development in College Station. He's also worked with and advised companies coming out of the Texas A&M University System for 12 years.

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Building Houston

 
 

Moonflower Farms grows lettuce hydroponically. Courtesy of Moonflower Farms

A Houston urban farm has earned national recognition for its innovative approach to water conservation. Moonflower Farms won the American Heart Association's Foodscape Innovation Excellence Award, which recognizes positive changes in the foodscape, a term for all of the places where food is produced, purchased, or consumed.

The Heart Association selected Moonflower's submission, titled "Sustainable Farming Through Water Conservation," from 26 entries. Dallas' Restorative Farms earns the Foodscape Innovation Consumer Choice Award.

"These two innovations demonstrate a way of producing food that promotes affordability and equitable access, and the American Heart Association is proud to recognize these efforts," AHA chief medical officer for prevention Eduardo Sanchez said in a release.

Located in a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse south of downtown, Moonflower operates what it describes as Houston's first vertical indoor farm. The method both reduces the amount of space needed to grow the farm's microgreens, lettuces, herbs and edible flowers and it eliminates the disruptions caused by adverse weather conditions, which allows the farm to produce year round.

Moonflower uses a closed-loop system for capturing rainwater to feed its crops. The water is treated and oxygenated so that it can be reused. Not having to pay for water from the City of Houston allows the farm to operate more economically and sell its produce at an affordable price to restaurants and individuals.

"Our hydroponic farm uses 90-percent less water than conventional farms," Moonflower founder and CEO Federico Marques said in a statement. "We provide year-round produce to residents in historically underserved communities and donate produce to local charitable food systems."

One of those charities is Houston non-profit Second Servings, which "rescues" food from restaurants and events and distributes it to food pantries and other resources.

"The donations we receive from Moonflower Farms are incredible," Second Servings founder and president Barbara Bronstein said. "Their hydroponically grown greens are so appreciated by the needy Houstonians we serve, who lack affordable, convenient access to fresh produce."

Recently, Moonflower introduced a SupaGreens subscription box that allows customers to purchase greens weekly, bimonthly, or monthly. The box is delivered directly to consumers.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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