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Middle Bit: John Deere acquires startup Blue River Technology for $305 million

Deere & Company announced an agreement to acquire Blue River Technology—an ag robotics startup—for $305 million, according to a news release Wednesday from the Moline, Ill. based company.

Blue River Technology—based in Sunnyvale, Calif.—developed farm robotics technology using computer vision that can identify unwanted plants and shoot them with deadly herbicide.

According to the release, Deere is confident that similar technology can be used in the future on a wider range of products. Deere will invest $305 million to fully acquire Blue River Technology and have the 60-person firm remain in Sunnyvale.

The transaction between Deere & Company and Big River Technology is expected to close in September.

Iowa State University named Innovation Corps site

Iowa State University was selected as one of the newest National Science Foundation Innovation Corps sites, according to a news release Tuesday morning.

According to the release, the distinction enhances the university’s reputation as a leader in creative innovative solutions to address societal problems.

The National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) sites act as a training ground for faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students to transition their ideas from the lab to the marketplace. Researchers learn how to increase the impact of their research by exploring the commercial potential of their research and technology. The program also strengthens the university’s entrepreneurship programs.

Iowa State University will focus on translating discoveries that reflect its strengths in engineering, bio-renewables, materials science and agriculture, food and nutrition, and veterinary  medicine.

Iowa to hold digital literacy conference

Iowa will hold a first-of-its-kind digital literacy conference with education, health and safety leaders along with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, according to a news release Tuesday.

According to the release, the event will feature educational and scientific leaders on digital literacy. They will share innovations in teaching with educators, health professionals and other stakeholders.

The one-day conference is scheduled for Nov. 10 in Ames.

What else happened…


Amazon is on the lookout for a city to stick its new HQ, could Colorado be in the mix? – The Denver Post

Four Silicon Valley venture firms invest $21 million in Denver’s Guild Education – The Denver Post


United Technologies to buy Rockwell Collins for $23 billion – The Wall Street Journal

Rockwell Collins’ future in Iowa uncertain – The Des Moines Register


United Way’s Funding Bind –


St. Louis will put together ‘competitive bid’ for new Amazon HQ – The Associated Press

Sprint Accelerator alum trades Miami for Kansas City –


Middle Bit: John Deere acquires startup Blue River Technology for $305 million | 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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