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Scout Pro: Simplifying crop scouting

Scout Pro

This AgTech company started as an idea during an agriculture entrepreneurship class at Iowa State University eight years ago.

That class required students to come up with an original business plan in the agriculture industry. Because of his experience with crop scouting, Michael Koenig wanted to develop something more intuitive to better utilize the information that was collected.

“It was all handwritten, so it’s not very searchable in terms of data unless you want to go back and reread my handwriting from weeks of scouting,” Koenig explains.

Koenig would partner with Holden Nyhus and Stuart McCulloh to form Scout Pro in 2011, while all three were students at Iowa State University.

“We won a scholarship, did a couple business plan competitions and just continued to build off that classroom experience,” Koenig says.

He credits Iowa State University and the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative for turning the idea for Scout Pro into an actual company.

Scout Pro is now based in Urbandale.

Patience and pivoting

Scout Pro launched its initial product in 2012, two years after coming up with the original concept. Koenig said they initially focused on marketing sales towards growers of crops.

“We realized a lot of growers in the U.S, scouting is a service to the grower, it’s not necessarily the growers getting out there and scouting,” Koenig said. “The co-op’s, Ag retailers, seed sales and independent crop consultants, they do crop scouting as a service to the grower. So we shifted to focus more on the retail workflow where there might be multiple growers within a system.”

Koenig said that shift led to an increase in customers. In 2015, Scout Pro made another organizational shift.

“Instead of building out a bunch of different things, we realized there are a lot larger systems that are better funded who could do that,” Koenig said. “So we laid back and did the scouting and observation piece really well. Then integrate with those larger types.”

Scout Pro has also incorporated satellite imagery and weather data to offer customers more information.

“That can help direct our customers to places they need to go versus them just roaming their field,” Koenig said. “There has been a gap, a lot of solutions but nothing working together with data and imagery.”

Moving forward

Scout Pro still has its original three employees and the development team it started with back in 2011. Koenig wonders what would have happened had the company been more aggressive in expanding when the farm economy was better.

“We’re always looking for new opportunities but we are happy with where we are at,” Koenig says.

He said Scout Pro could be looking towards international opportunities.

“We weren’t business majors, but we’ve learned so much through experience it’s added value to our process,” Koenig said. “We are not the developers, we think about it from the field and what the retailer needs.”


Scout Pro: Simplifying crop scouting | 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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