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FarmlandFinder wins American Farm Bureau’s Ag Innovation Challenge

Ames entrepreneur Steven Brockshus is the 2019 American Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Farm Bureau announced on Monday.

Brockshus’ company, FarmlandFinder, won the American Farm Bureau’s Ag Innovation Challenge, taking home a total of $30,000 throughout the competition.

“Farm Bureau is the NFL for agriculture and being named Entrepreneur of the Year is such an honor,” Brockshus said. “Our goal is to make it ridiculously simple for landowners to buy and sell land, which would be a direct benefit to the many farmers and landowners across the country who are involved in Farm Bureau. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have shared the FarmlandFinder story on a national scale, and proud to have pointed a spotlight on some of the innovation coming out of Iowa startup ecosystem.”

Just last week, FarmlandFinder expanded their products to 12 states throughout the Midwest. The company has doubled the size of their team over the past six months and plans to continue to hire more people over the next 12 to 16 months.

This marks the fourth time that an Iowa company has won the competition since it began five years ago.

Previous coverage

FarmlandFinder expands product to 12 states -Jan. 7, 2019

FarmlandFinder and AgHelp advance to final four of Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge -Dec. 6, 2018

FarmlandFinder to pitch at Nebraska Farming Power Show -Nov. 26, 2018

FarmlandFinder wins American Farm Bureau’s Ag Innovation Challenge | 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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