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Ag Startup Engine adds Veridian Credit Union as new partner


The Ag Startup Engine announced Monday that Veridian Credit Union joined the Ag Startup Engine effort, according to a news release.

According to the release, Veridian Credit Union will bring education, mentoring and financing resources to Iowa entrepreneurs and startups that focus on agriculture technology. Veridian is a not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by its members with more than 750 employees in 30 branches.

The Ag Startup Engine is located at the Iowa State University Research Park in Ames, Iowa.

Monte Berg, president and CEO of Veridian Credit Union, called their involvement with the Ag Startup Engine a natural fit.

“Veridian was founded in agriculture when a group of John Deere employees chartered our credit union in Waterloo, Iowa in 1934,” Berg explained. “Participating in the ASE is a way to honor our past while joining other investors to support economic growth in Iowa. We’re grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the ASE’s success.”

Veridian is the eighth member of the ASE, joining: Hertz Farm Management, Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa, Next Level Ventures, Summit Agriculture Group, Ag Leader Technologies, Ag Ventures Alliance and Peoples Company.

Kevin Kimle, director of Iowa State University’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, said Veridian will add a much-needed business lender perspective to the investment group.

“Veridian’s history from being founded as an agricultural business credit union, along with its innovative team, will bring great insight to the entrepreneurs at the Ag Startup Engine,” Kimle said.

The ASE was created in 2005.

Ag Startup Engine adds Veridian Credit Union as new partner | 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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