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Iowa AgriTech Accelerator: Learning from year one to prepare for 2018

Iowa AgriTech Accelerator

Applications are now being accepted to join the second cohort for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator.

Executive director Megan Vollstedt said they are looking for no more than six innovative startups in the AgTech space with a valid issue and an effective and innovative solution.

The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator provides $40,000 in seed funding to each startup.

Vollstedt said as she reviewed the first year of the program, one main takeaway was to move the timeline up so companies who need to be in the field during harvest, are able to.

Because of that, the second cohort will start its 100-day program on May 29 and have its demo day at the World Food Prize on August 30.

“We adjusted the schedule so they have the flexibility to be working with customers,” Vollstedt said. “We are continuing to look for how we can provide mentorship and guidance for the cohort.”

Vollstedt said another major piece of feedback she received from the startups was the value of working with the mentors.

“That was a huge benefit from their perspective,” Vollstedt said. “And I think it was proven by the progress they made.”

To apply, click here.

Past coverage from the 2017 Iowa AgriTech Accelerator

  • Class of 2017 announced for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator – June 8
  • Meet the new Executive Director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator – June 14
  • Iowa AgriTech Accelerator starts by pairing startups with mentors – July 17
  • Mentors are paired with startups – July 31
  • Founders in AgriTech Accelerator reflect on their time in Des Moines – October 11
  • Demo Day: Startups showcase themselves – October 18
Iowa AgriTech Accelerator: Learning from year one to prepare for 2018 | 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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