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Iowa AgriTech Accelerator announces five startups for 2019 cohort

Iowa AgriTech Accelerator

The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator has announced the five agtech startups selected for the program’s class of 2019.

Based in Des Moines, the accelerator is a mentor-led program that focuses on ag-based technology innovations. This year’s class is the third to go through the 100-day program.

“We’re excited to welcome a diverse group of startups from all over the world to Central Iowa this summer,” said Kerty Levy, interim executive director of the accelerator, in the announcement. “The accelerator will be a catalyzing experience for these entrepreneurs. Throughout their time in our program, they’ll gain valuable connections, constructive feedback from industry players and a clearer path forward in their business pursuits.”

The program will start June 3 and conclude on August 30. The five startups participating in the program will $40,000 in seed funding, mentoring, field trips to investor and mentor companies, outreach, networking and multiple presentation opportunities.

Here is a quick look at the five groups participating in this year’s Iowa AgriTech Accelerator:

droneSAR (Des Moines, Iowa) — droneSAR develops radar imaging technology for commercial drones and small aircrafts that can sense below the crop canopy.

FarmatroniX (College Park, Maryland) — FarmatroniX aims to tackle the skilled labor shortage by providing growers an artificial intelligence system that can control the growing process without any human input.

Otrafy (Vancouver, Canada) — Otrafy is building the data infrastructure that enables seamless transfer of goods between different parties and jurisdictions, thus becoming the gold standard for authenticity and transparency in the food industry.

Raks Agricultural Technology (São Leopoldo, Brazil) — Raks Agricultural Technology provides a system to improve irrigation control based on new TDR sensors to measure the soil moisture, presenting all information on a web platform or mobile app.

Vitalgia (Heerlen, Netherlands) — Vitalgia’s in-plant navigation system guides robots within a plant’s 3D structure, enabling robots to approach human performance of tasks on complex plants.


This year’s class will also present and explain their innovations at the accelerator’s Demonstration Day during World Food Prize week in Des Moines.

Iowa AgriTech Accelerator announces five startups for 2019 cohort | 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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