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Iowa AgriTech Accelerator Extends Application Deadline, adds new board member

In response to COVID-19, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator has extended the deadline for applications to its 2020 accelerator cohort from March 30, 2020, to May 1, 2020.

“We are constantly exploring new ways of providing a quality program every year,” says IATA Executive Director Nadilia Gomez. “We want the best for our startups and – during difficult times like these – there’s even more reason to be flexible, focus on quality and find creative ways to foster the innovation needed to keep Central Iowa in its role as one of the nation’s top regions for agtech development.”

“We believe agtech innovation can come from anywhere and, although a proportion of our startups are international, given travel restrictions this year we are particularly encouraging Iowa-based entrepreneurs to apply,” Gomez says. 

New board member

The AgriTech Accelerator board also welcomed new member, Grant Kimberley, to his first term as External Board Member.

“The great group of high-quality companies and individuals that are involved with this board, along with the potentially great entrepreneurs that will apply for support, would be hard to replicate anywhere else,” Kimberley says. “As I have been around agriculture all my life and have a passion for maintaining Iowa’s leadership in this field, I found the mission of the accelerator to be very interesting.” 

Kimberley serves as the Senior Director of Market Development for the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) and the Executive Director of the Iowa Biodiesel Board.

“Grant brings a depth of industry knowledge to the IATA Operating Company Board that will be invaluable to the organization and our future cohorts of agtech businesses,” said Rachel Geilenfeld, External Relations Manager at Sukup Manufacturing Co. and IATA Operating Company Board Chair. “Adding another active farmer to our board validates IATA’s direct connection to agriculture.”

Iowa AgriTech Accelerator Extends Application Deadline, adds new board member | 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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