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Middle Bit: UI wins $115 million grant to study magnetic fields

NASA is awarding the University of Iowa its largest ever grant to study the mysterious interactions between the magnetic fields of the Earth and sun.

Craig Kletzing, a professor in the UI physics and astronomy department, says they will use the $115 million grant to design and build two satellites that will be placed in orbit about 300 miles up.

The project, called Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites (TRACERS), is part of a larger initiative, NASA’s Explorers Program, which is studying how the sun affects space and the space environment around planets.

Out of more than 35,000 projects awarded to the UI since 1965, this grant is the only research award of more than $100 million.

Fleet Farm plans to hire more than 200 for Cedar Rapids store

Fleet Farm has announced plans to hire more than 200 team members for the new Fleet Farm stores in Cedar Rapids opening this September. 

“Our goal is to hire and train a knowledgeable team of outdoor enthusiasts who are ready to bring the new Fleet Farm to life for our Iowa customers,” said James Metcalf, Fleet Farm Cedar Rapids general manager, said in a news release. “I am eager to get the right team in place as we prepare to bring the Fleet Farm experience to Cedar Rapids.”  

Fleet Farm, headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin, offers merchandise and services for active, outdoor, suburban and farm communities. The new Cedar Rapids Fleet Farm is located at 4650 Cross Pointe Blvd.

NewBoCo opens applications for fall intrapreneur academy program

NewBoCo is now accepting applications for the fall 2019 group of its Intrapreneur Academy.

The year-long program, set to start Oct. 4, will focus on a different “innovation competency” each quarter, including agility, methods, culture and strategy.

NewBoCo will recruit five to eight teams, representing a mix of for-profit, not-for-profit and governmental groups.

Interested participants can apply here

Middle Bit: UI wins $115 million grant to study magnetic fields | 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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