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Middle Bit: MākuSafe announces new updates

MākuSafe announced two new updates this week that it says will have a significant impact for customers who need effective contact tracing and for those seeking industry 4.0 automation capabilities.

The first of these enhancements is built around MākuSafe’s RāngeView technology, which allows a wearable device on the arm of a worker to detect proximity to other wearables as well as other IIoT devices. This enables accurate contact tracing, and also opens up a range of possibilities for integrating the connected worker with a smart factory.

The company has also added a new reporting module, allowing clients to extract and study data by creating their own custom reports, or by using a suite of pre-designed report templates. 

Former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture joins Big Idea Ventures

Big Idea Ventures today announced the appointment of Bill Northey, former Under Secretary for USDA Farm Production and Conservation, as a senior advisor to its General Food Rural Partners Fund.

The recently launched General Food Rural Partners Fund is a $125 million target fund that will drive economic development in rural communities through the commercialization of university-developed intellectual property.

Before joining USDA at the federal level under the Trump administration, Northey was the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture from 2007-2018.

Iowa duo to appear on Shark Tank

Two friends from Holstein, Iowa—Taylor “Earl” Nees and Garret “Buddy” Lamp—will have the opportunity of pitching their creation of Muff Waders to the Sharks on Shark Tank on ABC.

Muff Waders are bib overalls that have a built-in beer cooler on the chest, large pockets on the legs to hold liquor bottles and an attached bottle-opener. To date, the two have sold around 900 pairs of Muff Waders.

Filming of their Shark Tank appearance actually took place last summer. Their appearance on the show will air at 7 p.m. Friday on ABC.  

Middle Bit: MākuSafe announces new updates | 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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