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Scouting Report: Hunterra Mapping comes from D.C to Iowa City


A Father’s Day gift from a cartographer at the National Counter Terrorism Center in Washington D.C turned into a business.

Hunterra is an Iowa City-based company that creates custom hunting maps for hunters, land professionals and farmers.  Hunterra started in 2009 after Ben Harshyne, who at the time was the lead cartographer at the National Counter Terrorism Center in Washington D.C. He is originally from Western Pennsylvania and got a degree in Geographic Information Systems at Penn State University.

“I would make these maps that were used for briefs on national security,” Harshyne said. “In 2009 I was thinking of an idea for my dad on Father’s day and I figured out a way to visualize cartography and terrain in a more intuitive way by blending together aerial photography and a 3D terrain model.”

Hunterra was simply a side hustle until 2014, when Harshyne and his wife Kate decided to turn it into a full-time business. And because Ben had traveled to the Midwest to hunt,  he had a dream of living here. So towards the end of 2014, Ben and Kate moved to New London, a small town in Southeast Iowa. And early in 2015, they relocated to Iowa City.

Here is the scouting report on Hunterra:

Proving it was a good idea

After moving from the East coast, Harshyne said the first year was a “prove it” year to not only himself, but to friends and family who had their doubts about them making such a drastic change in their lives.

He said during that first year and not having a steady income—and buying their own health insurance—was scary.

“We made a lot of relationships out here and have been able to do everything we needed to solidify ourselves as the map maker for the American hunter and landowner,” Harshyne said. “It’s been the best gamble that we’ve ever made. We just continue to set these big goals and so far we’ve been meeting them.”

Harshyne says Hunterra is capable of mapping grounds anywhere in the United States, from land in New Hampshire to New Mexico. The combination of software, automation and the human element separates Hunterra from the competition.

“We’ve got imagery access that is available throughout the entire country,” he said. “Then our competitive advantage we have over just going to Google Earth is we blend multiple layers together and a proprietary process with a number of different software programs to make these maps.”

The website is the storefront

From start to finish, Harshyne said a customer can have their map generated for a preview in as little as five days.

“Whatever it takes to fine-tune and make those subtle changes so your map is perfect and precise,” Harshyne says. “Then you get your map in about a week.”

While Hunterra outsources the printing, the team is made up of four full-time employees working on production and brand managing. They currently office out of their home but are looking for space in North Liberty before the fall and would like to bring the printing in-house if it’s affordable.

“We are Iowans and we love it here,” Harshyne says. “From a lifestyle perspective, it just seems like a great place and just Iowa in general, it gives a lot of opportunity to aspiring entrepreneurs.”

Harshyne said he’s looking at ways to expand the customer base not just for farmers, but ranchers, cattle farms, pastures and vineyards.

“If it’s land in America, we can map it better than anybody,” he says.

Previous Scouting Reports

Scouting Report: Tokalon Clothing provides a blank canvas for activewear – Jan. 18, 2018

Scouting Report: Creative Habitat working on child-friendly coworking – Dec. 12, 2017

Scouting Report: StemBox moves from Seattle to Des Moines – Sept. 14, 2017




Scouting Report: Hunterra Mapping comes from D.C to Iowa City | 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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