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Cultivation Corridor launches Cultivo Virtual Academy

America’s Cultivation Corridor announced today the launch of the Cultivo Virtual Academy for international startup companies and entrepreneurs.

The six-week virtual program will provide participants with mentorship, interaction with Iowa’s agricultural leaders, and an online curriculum focused on U.S. market entry, regulatory and financing systems, and customer perspectives.

All educational sessions will be facilitated by Iowa business and university leaders. Upon successful completion of the virtual program, cohort  participants will be eligible to attend an in-person, week-long Cultivo event in Iowa, currently slated for 2022. The in-person event will provide additional training and an opportunity to network with mentors, Iowa industry leadership and startups, and tour Iowa farms and Iowa State University. 

“While COVID-19 has stopped international travel, it has not slowed innovation in agriculture and biosciences in Iowa. In fact, advancing innovation is more critical than ever to address growing challenges of global food security and sustainability,” said Judd O’Connor, President of U.S. Commercial Business for Corteva Agriscience, and Chairman of the Cultivation Corridor Board of Directors. “The Cultivo Virtual Academy is the perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs and founders to access the expertise of Iowa leadership and engage with world-renowned researchers, industry leaders, and farmers as they develop their technologies and businesses.”  

“There is no better place to develop and grow agricultural businesses and technologies than Iowa,” said Debi Durham, executive director of IEDA and the Iowa Finance Authority. “With a strong network of university researchers, industry leadership, startup companies and forward-thinking farmers and  livestock producers, the next generation of ag innovations is underway here. We look forward to the  networks and new opportunities that will be built when entrepreneurs from around the world come together with Iowa’s best and brightest in the Cultivo Virtual Academy.” The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) is the presenting sponsor of the program. 

Applications for the program are now being accepted through February 16, 2021. Selected applicants will be notified in March  2021, and the first cohort is expected to begin in April.

Cultivation Corridor launches Cultivo Virtual Academy | 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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