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Middle Bit: Iowa AgriTech Accelerator hosts second annual AgTech Day

The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator hosted its second annual AgTech Day on Tuesday, March 26.

This year, nine early-stage agtech startups gathered at Maple Ventures in West Des Moines to showcase their innovations.

This year’s participating startups were:

  • Ag-EZ (Des Moines, IA): An application that allows farmers to precisely identify needs on their fields and connect with custom service providers in the same region
  • Big Data in a Box (Ames, IA): A one-stop shop data and analytics tool for organic farmers that enables and saves time in the collection, retention, and use of data for organic certification, compliance, and operations planning
  • DroneSAR (Des Moines, IA): Radar imaging sensor hardware (cameras for drones) and software for precision agriculture applications
  • Dynamic Motion (Herman, NE): A robotic power washer designed to help sanitize finishing units in hog operations
  • Gym-N-EAT-Crickets (Ames, IA): Raising and processing crickets for development of protein snacks
  • Industrial Hemp (Ankeny, IA): Platform and structured supply chain services for hemp production and distribution
  • Shift.Aero (Sunnyvale, CA): A heavy-lifting, unmanned aerial vehicle designed for crop spraying
  • Tractor Zoom (West Des Moines, IA): Heavy equipment auction marketplace connecting farm equipment auctioneers and buyers.
  • Vilicus Capital (Des Moines, IA): A platform and service for regenerative, ecological farming

Applications for the 2019 accelerator cohort are due by this Sunday, March 31.

What else is happening?

Global Insurance Symposium set for April 23-25

Approximately 700 insurance and technology leaders from around the globe will gather in Des Moines next month for the 2019 Global Insurance Symposium.

Set to take place April 23-25, the annual symposium will provide a venue for those in the insurance industry to address issues impacting the marketplace with a focus on technology, policy and innovation.

As part of the symposium, the Global Insurance Accelerator’s 2019 cohort will be presenting their

The presentations will run from 3:30 – 5 p.m. in the Ballroom at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center – all in the Iowa Events Center.

Please arrive early for parking and walking-time to the ballroom. The venue has parking, but you may need to use street parking.

Peggy Whitson keynote speaker for 2019 Future Ready Iowa-STEM Summit

Peggy Whitson, former astronaut, space and science consultant, will be the keynote speaker for the 2019 Future Ready Iowa Summit.

The statewide event will take place on April 30 at the Iowa Events Center and will include statements by Governor Kim Reynolds and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg.

At the end of the summit, Governor Reynolds will announce the six elementary schools selected to each receive a $50,000 grant through the Computer Science is Elementary Project.

Registration for the event is now available at $50 and is free for students.

Middle Bit: Iowa AgriTech Accelerator hosts second annual AgTech 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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