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Middle Bit: Rantizo becomes first Iowa company approved to use drones for crop spraying

Iowa City-based agtech startup Rantizo last week became the first company in Iowa legally authorized to use drones for the aerial application of agrochemicals. 

The approval was the last obstacle the company needed for legal authorization, following two certifications it obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration in May.

“Our drone technology had been ready for a few months, we just needed the regulatory landscape to get sorted out,” Rantizo CEO Michael Ott said in a release. “Building the technology is the easy part.”  

Rantizo’s drones will first be used to applying fungicide in corn and spreading cover crop seeds to wet areas, Ott said in the release.

Nadilia Gomez named Executive Director of Iowa Agritech Accelerator

 The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator has announced Nadilia Gomez as the program’s next executive director.

Gomez joins The Accelerator from Corteva Agriscience — one of the Accelerator’s six investor companies — where she served as a senior research scientist in Predictive Ag and as digital pillar leader of the Disruptive Business Innovation Portfolio.

At Corteva, Gomez was responsible for tactical and strategic planning of digital solutions for breeders, agronomists and farmers.

“Nadilia has an excellent perspective on agtech, having been a mentor at The Accelerator for two years and shepherding Corteva’s digital solutions innovation for the past 18 months,” said Kerty Levy, interim executive director of The Accelerator. “Nadilia holds a PhD in applied plant sciences and has been a researcher at Corteva for the last eight years. She will be able to bring great value to the startups, helping further their innovations, connecting them with industry expertise and helping them accelerate their businesses.”

Gomez has also spent time serving on multiple industry association boards and committees, including the Technology Association of Iowa and the South Central Region Governor’s STEM Advisory Board.

Nadilia will take over as Executive Director starting Aug. 1 and will be responsible for the overall management and direction of the program. Her primary responsibilities will entail program execution and management of the startups, investors and mentors, in addition to managing connections with ecosystem partners and industry groups.

ISU and UI set records for external research funding

Iowa State University and the University of Iowa both received a record-high amount of external funding for research this past fiscal year, according to data released earlier this week by the two schools. 

Iowa State University brought in $260.9 million of external funding for research in its 2019 fiscal year 2019, a 6.2% jump over the previous year’s $245.8 million. The previous record for research funding was $252.5 million in 2016. 

External research funding supported more than 1,300 research projects during fiscal year 2019, including projects to study structural biology at the molecular level, develop a nanovaccine for the flu, identify catalysts that lead to biorenewable chemicals and build a data system that helps inform policy about the care and education of young children.

The University of Iowa attracted a record setting $588.8 million in external funding, including $467 million for research and scholarship.

Two of the major projects the research funding will go towards include: health and medical research that seeks to benefit military personnel and research on developing a new fertilizer that is expected to improve the harvest yields of corn and soybeans.

The recently-announced $115 million NASA award to Iowa physicist Craig Kletzing, which is the largest externally-funded research project in UI history, is not included in the 2019 numbers.

Previous coverage

Iowa AgriTech Accelerator announces five startups for 2019 cohort -May 14, 2019

Rantizo wins $20,000 at AgTech Innovation Competition -Feb. 1, 2019

Rantizo is bringing drone technology to the ag industry –-Oct. 15, 2018

Middle Bit: Rantizo becomes first Iowa company approved to use drones for crop spraying | 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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