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Gross-Wen Technologies receives $2 million investment from Doerfer

Gross-Wen Technologies has received a $2 million investment from Doerfer Corporation.

Gross-Wen Technologies is an Ames-based company that has developed an algae system capable of cost-effectively recovering nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater. The company was started in 2014 by Martin Gross and Zhiyou Wen and is based on a technology they developed at Iowa State University. 

“We’ve been working with Doerfer for roughly a year and a half now,” said Martin Gross, co-founder and CEO of Gross-Wen Technologies. “We have been working with them to build our algae cultivation treatment system. They helped us do some designs and actually automate that process. And it just kind of naturally morphed to where it is now, where they are our primary vendor for manufacturing our system and are now also an equity partner.”

Gross-Wen has conducted several pilot-projects in Iowa as well as one with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and now say that their system is fully developed and ready to be deployed commercially.

“A major part of the investment will be used to hire personnel to really get out there and deploy this technology,” said Gross.

In May, Gross-Wen gained regulatory approval from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, allowing them to start selling their product within the state. Now that they’ve gained approval from the Iowa DNR, Gross-Wen is evaluating expansion into other states.

“The first state is always the most difficult. Now that we got Iowa it kind of sets a precedence about how to do it in other states,” said Gross. “And also Iowa is known as being one of the most thorough states in evaluating these technologies. So going into other states should be much more straightforward and less time-consuming.”

Gross-Wen Technologies receives $2 million investment from Doerfer | 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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