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Middle bit: Applications open for 2021 Ag Innovation Challenge

The American Farm Bureau Federation has opened applications for the 2021 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge.

This annual competition will showcases startups that are addressing challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Farm Bureau will award $145,000 in startups through the competition.

Launched in 2015 as the first national competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs, the Challenge continues to identify the next ag entrepreneurs to watch and supports innovation essential to Farm Bureau member businesses and communities.

Iowa companies have a history of doing well in the challenge. SwineTech, was awarded the Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2018. Many other Iowa companies — Nebullam, FarmlandFinder, and Continuum Ag and Rantizo — have all made it to the semifinals of the competition in the last two years.

This year, Farm Bureau is seeking entrepreneurs who are addressing both traditional challenges farmers and rural communities face as well as business owners tackling new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“In light of the impacts Farm Bureau members are experiencing from COVID-19, solutions from entrepreneurs are needed more than ever to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall in an announcement. “We’re very interested to see how entrepreneurs will use startup funds provided by the Challenge to help support farms and ranches and grow the rural economy.”

Farm Bureau and Farm Credit will select 10 startup companies to compete at the AFBF Annual Convention in January 2021 as semi-finalists. The 10 semi-finalist teams will be announced on Oct. 5 and awarded $7,500 each. The 10 teams will compete to advance to the final round where four teams will receive an additional $7,500 and compete live on stage in front of Farm Bureau members, investors and industry representatives.

The final four teams will compete to win:

  • Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, for a total of $50,000
  • People’s Choice award, for a total of $20,000

Applications must be received by July 31.

Greater Des Moines Partnership AND Drake University partner on DSM Tutor Connection

The Greater Des Moines Partnership and Drake University have partnered to offer a new service called the DSM Tutor Connection to Des Moines students in grades K-12.

DSM Tutor Connection is a web-based platform designed to connect families seeking tutoring for their children with students interested in providing these services. Currently, more than 40 students have signed up and are listed on the DSM Tutor Connection website.

All of the tutoring will be conducted on-line and scheduled between tutors and interested families. All tutors will be paid $15 per hour and families can coordinate the payment plan and method directly with their tutors.


The Technology Association of Iowa (TAI) is seeking speakers for the 2020 Iowa Technology Summit

The Iowa Technology Summit is designed by and for the Technology Association of Iowa members, with a goal of strengthening the Iowa technology community through cross-industry collaboration and problem-solving.

Content is selected by a committee comprised of technology professionals from multiple industries across the state of Iowa. Our panel wants to see and learn how you are:

  • Creating a competitive advantage using technology.
  • Using proven strategies and the best technologies to tackle your biggest challenges.
  • Utilizing new and emerging technologies to solve common business problems.
  • Using creative techniques to lead and inspire teams.

The tentative tracks for the 2020 Iowa Technology Summit are:

  • Cyber Security
  • Cloud Technology
  • UI/UX
  • Technology Innovation
  • Leadership

Submissions will be accepted through May 29.

Middle bit: Applications open for 2021 Ag Innovation Challenge | 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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