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Cultivation Corridor launches Cultivo Global Ag Innovation Program

During this week’s World Food Prize activities in Des Moines, America’s Cultivation Corridor announced the launch of the Cultivo Global Ag Innovation Program, a 10-day immersion program for international startup companies and entrepreneurs.

The new program will bring international startups to Iowa for 10 days of experience, training and networking. The program will provide opportunities for the participating startups to learn from and connect with Iowa’s agricultural research and business leadership throughout the 10-day program.

Each cohort of the program will host 5-10 startups from a selected country to visit Iowa and meet with researchers and business leaders throughout the state. The Corridor plans to host the first cohort in spring 2020.

“The Cultivo Global Ag Innovation Program is an exciting new opportunity to bring global entrepreneurs and innovators to Iowa to share their ideas and engage with world-renowned researchers, industry leaders and farmers,” said Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, during the announcement.

The Corridor plans to host the first cohort in spring 2020 with five to ten startups from a country that will be announced in the future.

Cohort sessions will conclude with a Pitch Day event, where each participating startup will present their company to industry leaders, research faculty, investors and venture capitalists.

“The next generation of ag and bioscience technologies are being researched, tested and scaled up in Iowa right now, with Iowa State University and our renowned faculty leading the way in many areas,” said Dr. Wendy Wintersteen, President of Iowa State University. “Participating in the Cultivo Global Ag Innovation Program will give startups from around the world access to the latest expertise in nearly every aspect of ag technologies, from biofuels to livestock production and agronomics to predictive ag.” 

ISU Startup Factory, Iowa AgriTech Accelerator, ISU Pappajohn Center and ISU Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative will be key partners involved in program planning and mentorship coordination, along with other incubators and accelerators across Iowa.

Cultivation Corridor launches Cultivo Global Ag Innovation Program | 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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