NC’s Piedmont Triad Cultivates Ag Tech Growth
The 12- county Piedmont Triad region, the center core of North Carolina, continues to transform itself by investing in infrastructure, talent, and innovation.
Much of its growth has been generated from within the region, creating a natural attraction for others to locate and contribute. As executive director of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Piedmont Triad Office, I have experienced this transformation firsthand.
The bioscience yield has been significant according to a 2018 TEConomy Report. The Greensboro-High Point MSA is the only MSA in North Carolina with specialization in four areas: agricultural feed stocks and chemicals; drugs and pharmaceuticals; medical devices and equipment; and research, testing and medical laboratories.
The region is well known for its medical and health care expertise, with a prominent medical school in Winston-Salem – the Wake Forest School of Medicine, along with its world-renowned Institute for Regenerative Medicine. In addition, one of four pharmacy schools in North Carolina was recently established at High Point University.
Not as well known is that the Piedmont Triad has the second-largest concentration of ag tech activity in the state. Fully 11% of the state’s ag tech workforce is located in the region. The region’s growing ag tech base was a focus for its iconic Triad BioNight excellence awards event held in June.
The Triad has a diverse roster of large and small companies that are innovating new products for better health. The intersection of health and agriculture could be a new growth opportunity for the region to nurture.
Did you know that:
- Syngenta, the Swiss ag biotech giant, has its North American Crop Protection headquarters in Greensboro?
- When you give your cat or dog a chewable medicine, the chewables technology was invented by a Greensboro company, Piedmont Animal Health?
- Plant-derived oils for the food, chemical and dietary supplements industries are being developed by Technology Crops International of Winston-Salem?
- SoBran BioScience, a Virginia-based provider of pre-clinical studies in small and large animals, chose Greensboro for its newest facility?
- Natural Discoveries of High Point identifies novel compounds and medicinal plants from remote areas of the world for the pharmaceutical, agricultural and natural products industries?
- IDEXX Laboratories, a global animal health company, has a reference laboratory in Greensboro that provides diagnostic products and services for small animals, equine, poultry and dairy livestock?
- A Burlington company, Mycorrhiza Biotech, is pioneering the cultivation of truffles in pine seedlings using biotech methods?
Ag biotech innovations like these, and the companies behind them, are sure to expand and thrive as the planet’s population grows and we are challenged to produce more food, fiber and fuel on a finite amount of land.
This is leading to a range of good careers in ag biotech that pay well and have low unemployment rates. In fact, a recent compilation of U.S. Census data by the website 24/7 Wall St. found that of the top 20 college majors with the lowest rates of unemployment, six of them are in the ag biotech realm: animal science, soil science, biological engineering, genetics, agricultural economics and miscellaneous agriculture. People with degrees in these ag-related fields have a collective unemployment rate of only 1.3 percent, and their salaries average $65,600, well above the salaries for other college majors.
Ag tech may be a career pathway to consider and there are great places to prepare for that career in the Triad. N.C. Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, for example, offers more than a dozen undergraduate degrees in agriculture and ag biotech. In addition, community colleges in the region offer relevant associate degree programs and courses in ag and biotech. And just this year, Alamance Community College launched a new Agricultural Biotechnology A.A.S degree, the only one of its kind in the state.
Students in the Triad can cultivate a career in a growing industry with secure, good-paying jobs without ever leaving home.