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Middle Bit: Wal-Mart launches shelf scanning robots in 40 stores

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will roll out shelf-scanning robots in approximately 40 stores to replenish inventory faster and save store employees time when products run out, according to a story Thursday on 

According to the story, the robots are about two feet in size and come with a tower on their backs that is fitted with cameras. It will scan aisles to check stocks, missing items and if products have bene left in the wrong place by customers.

Chief Technology Officer Jeremy King told Reuters the robots are 50 percent more productive, can scan shelves three times faster than their human counterparts and improve accuracy levels.

The Arkansas-based company has been piloting robots in a handful of stores in Arkansas,  California and Pennsylvania.

Biotech entrepreneurs can apply for Iowa competition

An industry summit in Ankeny called Partnering For Growth will feature a competition that would give biotech entrepreneurs an opportunity to get their innovations in front of potential investors, according to a story Wednesday in The Des Moines Register.

According to the story, the Partnering For Growth competition is set for March 20-21 in Ankeny.

Presentations will be focused on the development of biofuels and biomaterials, advances in food, ag and plant genetics plus progress in animal health, human health and medical technology.

Applications to present will be accepted through Jan. 5; A panel of biotech leaders will pick one company to win $5,000.

Amazon receives 238 bids for HQ2

Amazon received 238 proposals from cities and regions across North America for where it should open its second headquarters, the company announced Monday.

And according to, 54 states, provinces, districts and territories in the United States, Canada and Mexico were represented in the bids.

The Seattle-based company said it would invest $5 billion and create up to $50,000 jobs for, “Amazon HQ2.”

Amazon will make a decision next year.

What else happened…


Best Buy expands after-school tech program – The Denver Post

Indoor skydiving company to expand STEM programming – The Denver Post


Cargill will buy Cedar Rapids-based Diamond V – The Des Moines Register


Dubai startup opens office in Detroit, raises $1.5 million –


How Amazon’s HQ2 could affect the price of rent in Minneapolis –


Kansas-City startup launches grass-fed beef delivery – SPN

KC primes teen entrepreneurs for success –

Hyperloop to AP: Kansas City to St. Louis a top-five finalist –

Other newsworthy stories about the Midwest…

Heartland startups finally strike back –

Middle Bit: Wal-Mart launches shelf scanning robots in 40 stores | 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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