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ISU graduate starts Terva.Ag to answer the questions on land sales, values

Farmland Finder

As a fifth generation, Northwest Iowa dairy farmer Steve Brockshus remembers going to land sales and always asking his father what the land would go for and what it was worth.

As he got older he stayed curious.

“I started asking questions, talking with other farmers and learned that having access to updated information on what land is worth as well as understanding the quality and production of that land, it’s just a difficult task to do,” Brockshus, 24, explains.

Questions continued during his time as an undergraduate student at Iowa State University.

“So at Iowa State in 2015 I took a class called ag entrepreneurship and our professor challenged us to share our idea with people and go talk to customers,” Brockshus says.

His idea was to build an online marketplace where landowners can connect farmers or buyers to purchase or rent their land.

“This was the idea that caught the most traction,” Brockshus says.

Fast forwarding to 2017 where that idea has become Terva.Ag and Brockshus is preparing to meet with investors. Version 1.0 is live and customers can sign up to receive alerts for what land is selling for.

“We’ve got a solid user base less than two months in,” Brockshus says. “It’s great to hear farmland owners and brokers say they couldn’t get this up to date information.”

Here is what the Terva.Ag looks like on a laptop screen/Special to Clay & Milk

How did we get here?

Rewinding to 2015, Brockshus participated in the Ames Startup Weekend where ideas are pitched and the top eight are selected to work with a team to produce a business plan, prototype and marketing strategy. At the end of the weekend, one idea is picked as a winner.

Brockshus had the top idea, again.

“That got some buzz around it,” Brockshus says.

In 2016 he then participated in Venture School in Des Moines – a six-week program designed to act as an accelerator to the startup process – that provided him feedback on the business.

Brockshus also says he participated in the ISU Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative and the ISU CYstarters program.

“I’m very fortunate to have gotten this off the ground while I was in school,” Brockshus says. “Those connections have been brought out by that and I couldn’t thank those people enough. “

Brockshus graduated from Iowa State in the Spring of 2017 with a degree in Agriculture Education and a minor in entrepreneurship.

Investors await

The first version of Terva launched in May and serves as a data provider to see what land is for sale and what has sold.

But Brockshus believes if the company can raise some funding it could become the full marketplace where a landowner can post and sell his land.

“Building out that marketplace component is what we are raising money for,” he says.

ISU graduate starts Terva.Ag to answer the questions on land sales, values | 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
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