Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Former Workiva Communications Editor announced as Executive Director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator

A former corporate communications editor for Workiva was announced as the Executive Director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator Tuesday morning.

Megan Vollstedt was introduced Tuesday morning during a press conference at the World Food Prize in downtown Des Moines.

With six years of experience in the startup community, Vollstedt replaces Tej Dhawan who served as interim director. Vollstedt graduated from Iowa State University in 2012 with a degree in English and advertising.

Dhawan said a national search took place to find the next executive director. But in the end, Vollstedt was selected for the position because of her experience working with a startup.

“She was embedded inside a startup, working with the board yet she was not a part of the founding or the executive team,” Dhawan explained. “What an accelerator director needs is that ability to see both sides: Be an outsider enough to be pragmatic and give good counsel and feedback yet know from the inside what the company needs to know to succeed.

“That was an experience nobody else had.”

Vollstedt said technology and agriculture are key to the future.

“Coming to the Accelerator from a six-year tenure at Workiva I have developed an understanding of what it takes to manage and grow a startup from infancy,” Vollstedt said. “I have a profound respect for the entrepreneur who works tirelessly to get their innovation ready for the real world.”

After being announced as the new Executive Director for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator, Megan Vollstedt announced the five-business class of 2017. Classes start July 10 in Des Moines.

Vollstedt said she plans to use her experience in the ecosystem to help startups in the program work with mentors, investors and advisors to advance innovations in AgTech.

Companies participating in The Accelerator receive intensive mentoring and $40,000 in seed funding, engagement with investor and mentor companies that compliment office time for holistic education, outreach, networking and presentation opportunities. Over 50 mentors will work with the startups.

This is the inaugural class for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator.

Brent Willett, Executive Director of the Cultivation Corridor, said The Accelerator started as a germ of an idea two and a half years ago and has turned into the first ag-specific startup accelerator in the Midwest.

“Increasingly less land is available to feed exponentially more people,” Willett said. “More food will be needed in the next 40 years than in the last 10,000 years. That requires innovation on a scale none of us have seen before, and that is where the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator comes in.”

Classes being July 10 in Des Moines and graduation is set for Oct. 20 at the World Food Prize.

The five startups in this year’s class are:

  • WISRAN – Sunnyvale, Calif.

– Developing a software as a service platform to increase agriculture operation efficiency initially targeting improving worker productivity and agricultural machinery logistics.

  • Pyur Solutions – Los Angeles, Calif.

– Developed a variety of nontoxic, biodegradable, plant-based pesticides, herbicides and insecticides for agriculture and the home.

  • Rabbit Tractors – Ann Arbor, Mich.

– Produces miniature farm equipment

  • Hintech – St. Joseph, Mo

– Created a corn stock remover and crusher for facilitating no-till farming

  • Phenomics Labs – Burnsville, Minn.

– Creates portable growing labs equipped with inexpensive data collection sensors and cameras that tests and captures results from experiments


Former Workiva Communications Editor announced as Executive Director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
This Pop-up Is Included in the Theme
Best Choice for Creatives
Purchase Now