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LongView Farms: It’s still farming, just done differently

Nebullam LongView Farms

All Scott Henry wanted was somebody to talk with about aeroponic farming.

A fourth-generation farmer on his family farm—LongView Farms—just outside of Nevada, Henry was thinking about the future of the family business and had just seen a YouTube video on aeroponic farming.

“I kind of saw that and said that looks like the future more than what we are doing outside right now,” Henry remembers.

So he visited Kevin Kimle of the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative at Iowa State University looking for a couple interns who could try something similar on a smaller scale and test the concept of growing without using soil.

He was late to the party.

“We walked 20 feet to the kitchenette at the AgEI offices at Iowa State and there was one of Nebullam’s first prototypes up and running with lettuce growing in it,” Henry says.

Since that moment in February of 2017, Henry said LongView Farms has partnered with Nebullam to help the Ames-based AgTech company develop the hardware and the software. Nebullam has space at LongView Farms to install prototypes.

“We are farmers at the end of the day, not software engineers and mechanical engineers,” Henry says. “What has worked great is we don’t want to play on that side, I just want a system that will grow produce indoors.”

Has it been working?

Henry says lettuce, multiple varieties of basil and microgreens have been raised and that it tastes good too.

“We’ve eaten more lettuce in the last 15 months…” Henry says laughing. “And what has been great is they continue to develop the infrastructure and we’ve been able to use the production from those to help better understand what the market for locally grown, indoor production looks like.”

And while Henry is still mainly a corn and soybean farmer, he says merging technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics into farming has potential to severely disrupt the industry.

“With technology and continued knowledge of those individuals who are farming and taking risks on trying new things, we are going to continue to on that track of doing a dang good job of producing food,” Henry says.

Henry said LongView Farms will continue to push Nebullam and help them raise the $1 million they hope to raise by this summer.

LongView Farms: It's still farming, just done differently | 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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