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Middle Bit: Colin Hurd of Smart Ag named on Forbes 30 Under 30

Colin Hurd was recently named to Forbes 2019 30 Under 30 list for founding Smart Ag, an Ames-based agtech company that provides autonomous systems to farmers

Hurd, who grew up on a farm and studied agriculture and business at Iowa State University, founded Smart Ag to commercialize autonomous farming solutions. Its first product, AutoCart, allows farmers to operate a driverless grain cart tractor from the cab of the combine.

Launched at the Farm Progress Show this summer, AutoCart is the software system which monitors and controls an autonomous grain cart tractor. The app allows setting staging and unloading locations in a field, adjusting speed, monitoring locations, and commanding the grain cart to sync.

The Smart Ag kit for AutoCart comes with an automation kit, hardware to connect machines to the cloud and tractor, the software and the overall farm, field and machinery platform for autonomous farming.

In June, Smart Ag received a $5 million investment from Stine Seed.

The Forbes list features 600 people in 20 different fields. Hurd was featured in the manufacturing and industry section.

What else is happening?


Minneapolis-based Travel Labs joins Beta.MN and raises $500,000. Travel Labs is the creator of an artificial intelligence platform intended to make business travel easier. They are also the creator of a travel application called Tempore, which helps provide business travelers with a reimagined experience. –Silicon Prairie News

Midwest startup accelerator gener8tor announced a new partnership with Allianz Life Ventures and Securian Financial to establish the OnRamp Insurance Accelerator in the Twin Cities, reports AmericanInno. Five startups will be welcomed into the three-month program each year, with a cash investment of $100,000. The program builds off the existing OnRamp Insurance Conference, which has been hosted at Chicago’s Soldier Field since inception in 2016; the April 2019 conference will be moved to the Target Center in Minneapolis. –innovationIOWA


St. Louis-based CoverCress Inc., formerly known as Arvegenix, has closed a $2 million follow-on equity investment round, bringing its total funding to just under $8 million.  Bayer Growth Ventures, the venture capital arm of Bayer and formerly Monsanto Growth Ventures, co-led the round with BioGenerator, the investment arm of local nonprofit BioSTL. –St. Louis Business Journal


Middle Bit: Colin Hurd of Smart Ag named on Forbes 30 Under 30 | 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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