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Ag Startup Engine invests $25,000 in FarmHand App

Ag Startup Engine (ASE) has made an initial $25,000 investment in DeWitt, Iowa based startup FarmHand App, a mobile web application that connects farmers with quality farmhands.

Farmers and ranchers can use this app to post jobs when needing help around the farm, and review multiple applicants, including a five-star rating and review system, before selecting the best fit for the task at hand. 

“We are very excited to be receiving this funding to continue our customer research and app development, providing the best quality of farmhands possible,” said Michael Schaeffer, FarmHand App CEO. “Over the next six months we hope to introduce another 5,000 active users to the platform with aggressive marketing, and network connections from ASE. Farmhand App is very thankful for all our partners and participants and is excited to join the Ag Startup Engine.” 

The company also received Proof of Commercial Relevance (POCR) funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to accelerate growth and continue to help out farmers during this agriculture labor crisis. 

“While the large size and automation of today’s farm equipment has reduced the need for full-time farm hands, it has created a need for more seasonal workers, such as grain truck drivers to keep up with grain combines that can fill a 1000 bushel semi-truck every 15 minutes,” said Al Myers, founder of Ag Leader Technologies and ASE investor member. “Due to the limited number of full- time workers on most farms, there is also a need for irregular intermittent help, such as installing field drainage tile, where the optimum crew is four workers. The FarmHand App will allow farmers to expand their potential pool of seasonal and intermittent workers, as well as provide better matching of part-time worker skills to the specific type of farm work to be done.” 

“Michael is a tenacious entrepreneur,” said Joel Harris, ASE co-director. “Farm labor shortages are a continuing issue in agriculture. While FarmHand App is in the early days, we’ve been impressed with Michael’s traction and willingness to learn and grow as a founder.” 

Over the next year, Ag Startup Engine plans to add up to three more agriculture technology startups to its portfolio ranging from animal health to precision agriculture. This is the fourteenth company Ag Startup Engine has invested in since it launched in 2016.

Previous coverage

Four startups receive funding from IEDA -May 26, 2020

Ag Startup Engine invests $25,000 in Skroot Laboratory -Feb. 10, 2020

Ag Startup Engine invests $25,000 in FarmHand App | 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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