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Middle Bit: Rantizo expands its drone spraying into Wisconsin

Iowa City agtech startup Rantizo has received approval from Federal Aviation Administration to provide drone spraying services in Wisconsin, broadening its approved operating territory in the Midwest.

Last month, Rantizo became the first company in the state of Iowa approved for drone based agricultural spraying. 

“Since announcing our approval for drone spraying in Iowa, just a few weeks ago, the phone has simply not stopped ringing,” said Rantizo CEO, Michael Ott, in a news release. “We’ve had requests for cover crop seeding, fungicide applications, even liquid copper sulfate spraying to control moss.  We’ve had calls with growers in almost every state in the country at this point,” Ott continued.

With their latest approval in Wisconsin, Rantizo notes they are quickly gaining momentum throughout the Midwest and plan to continue to expand state by state with partnerships with neighboring Departments of Agriculture. 

“Gaining our approval in Iowa first meant that we could not only serve our home state first, but quickly expand into other Midwestern states and perpetuate the regulatory approval process,” said Rantizo’s Director of Operations, Craig Perry. “We are seeing this with our approval into Wisconsin now and will have several other states’ approval in the very near future.”

Bahrain’s Rain raises $2.5 million, becomes first licensed crypto exchange in Middle East

(Photo courtesy of pexels).

Rain, a Bahrain-based cryptocurrency exchange, has closed its $2.5 million seed round. The round was co-led by BitMEX Ventures, the investment arm of the BitMEX, which is a cryptocurrency derivatives trading platform and Kuwait-based cryptocurrency fund, Blockwater.

Rain also announced that it has acquired the Crypto-Asset Module (CRA) license from the Central Bank of Bahrain, becoming the first cryptocurrency exchange to earn a regulatory license in the Middle East.

Two of Rain’s co-founders, AJ Nelson and Joseph Dallago, attended the University of Iowa, where they created clusterFlunk, an online platform that offered college students a place to meet, discuss college courses and share notes. The company raised a total of $1.1M in funding over two rounds before closing down in 2015.

After graduating from the University of Iowa, Nelson and Dallago became interested in the digital currency space, and in 2016, decided to enter the space full time. Over the last two years, they have spoken with regulators, banks and Meetup communities throughout the Middle East to learn as much as possible about the new technology and its presence in the region.

Andrew Yang to speak at TechBrew in Council Bluffs

Andrew Yang, U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, entrepreneur, attorney, philanthropist, and founder of Venture for America will be the guest at the Council Bluffs TechBrew on Aug. 8.

In 2011, Yang founded Venture for America, a national entrepreneurship fellowship, and helped create more than 2,500 jobs in cities across the country.

In Nov. 2017, Yang officially launched his campaign for the presidency and has become best known for his proposal for Universal Basic Income, known as the Freedom Dividend.

“60 fps” gaming expo tonight at Mainframe Studios

Tonight, Numinous Games and Mainframe Studios will be co-hosting the second annual “60 fps,” an expo featuring gaming and illustration artists throughout Iowa.

Attendees can experience virtual reality environments, video games, tabletop games, arcades, comics and interactive art while also exploring over 70 art studios.

Middle Bit: Rantizo expands its drone spraying into Wisconsin | 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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