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Summit Agriculture Group forms $300 million ag fund

Alden based Summit Agriculture Group has formed a $300 million investment fund that will focus on agriculture companies throughout the Midwest.

With the new fund, Summit plans on investing in two to three agricultural companies per year over a three-year period.

“I think the catalyst for the fund was a continued recognition of a couple of trends in agriculture,” said Justin Kirchhoff, Managing Director of Summit and head of private equity. “One is a continued need for growth and food production and more with less in terms fewer acres per capita. And then, more locally, in Iowa and the Midwest, we recognized that there’s not always a lot of alternatives for agribusinesses to grow their business via different capital providers.”

The new fund will primarily provide capital for midsize businesses with revenues between $20 million and $200 million.  

“We’ve also identified that these guys who have developed rather successful businesses may or may not have that next generation of ownership or management available to them,” Kirchhoff said. “Our goal is to be a value-added partner to them and come in and continue the legacy of their business and grow it alongside them.”

Past investments by Summit include investments in Heartland Pork, Hawkeye Renewables and Iowa Winds.

Summit will look for a majority share of each company it invests in but plans to keep in place present company managers as part of a stronger team with access to more resources.

“Our intention is not to recreate the wheel of a successful business,” Kirchhoff said. “It’s to expose them to our financial and agricultural network that we have, both in the Midwest and on the east coast, opening doors for them that otherwise might not have been available to them.”

Summit Agriculture Group forms $300 million ag fund | 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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