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Five startups present at Agtech Demo Day

The culmination of the Iowa Agritech Accelerator came on Tuesday as the five companies in the 2018 cohort presented their businesses to an audience of over 100 people.

The accelerator is a three-month program that provides agtech startups with financial support, mentorship and professional resources needed to help make their ideas a reality.

Each company presented about a problem they identified, their business idea, product, financial projections, marketing strategy and ability to scale.

Here are the companies that participated in the 2018 cohort:

AgHelp. Based out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, AgHelp is a mobile platform designed mobilize the farm-worker ecosystem to address the agriculture labor shortage. The app connects ag employers with available local labor, source labor and support services nationally at a cheaper cost than what is currently available.

BirdPreneur. BirdPreneur was established in June 2016 with the aim and vision of becoming the one-stop shop “aviculture” platform focused on helping individuals and corporate organizations raise birds such as broilers, layers, and turkeys for sales and consumption in order to increase meat and egg production across in Nigeria.

Krobel Corp. Based out of Mankato, Minnesota, Krobel Corp is a farrowing notification system that boosts employee efficiency and increases the number of piglets born.

U.S. Design Consultants. Located in Osceola, Iowa, U.S. Design Consultants develops broadcast dispensing granular products that address fundamental challenges and eliminates negative consequences associated with standard broadcast dispensing equipment.

VakSea. VakSea has developed a unique vaccine delivery platform for aquaculture that is more affordable, more effective, and easier to deliver. VakSea’s products can be fed directly to fish, eliminating the need for expensive, labor intensive, and invasive injection vaccines.

Takeaways from the accelerator

“Never just think that what you have is good enough,” said Ryan Kruse, co-founder of Krobel Corp. We want through several iterations of things that we initially thought were not going to be improved upon. We’ve proven that wrong time and time again and the mentors at the accelerator have done a really great job of instilling that in us.

Many of the mentors in the accelerator say that they also benefitted from participating in the program

“Those who are mentoring get as much value from this as those who are being mentored,” said Wendy Srnic, Research Director at Corteva Agriscience. “I’m a second-year mentor and the thing that resonates the most with me from these startups is their focus. That reminds me daily that that level of focus is exactly what we need at Corteva.

Five startups present at Agtech Demo Day | 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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