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Cultivo Virtual Academy announces 8 startups in inaugural cohort

America’s Cultivation Corridor announced today the names of the eight international startup companies that will participate in the first Cultivo Virtual Academy.

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.

The program will launch on April 13 with sessions facilitated by Iowa business and university leaders. America’s Cultivation Corridor will host and coordinate the Cultivo Virtual Academy in partnership with its investors and supporting organizations.

“The companies in the Cultivo Virtual Academy cohort represent a diverse group of new technologies and innovative approaches to a range of agricultural challenges,” said Debi Durham, director of the IEDA and the Iowa Finance Authority in a release. “We look forward to the connections and opportunities that are built as they connect with Iowa’s research, farming and business leaders and provide opportunities for these companies as they plan their entry into the U.S. marketplace.”

“We are excited to welcome a very impressive group of startups to the first Cultivo cohort and look forward to making critical connections with Iowa’s business leaders, research and forward-thinking farmers and livestock producers,” said Judd O’Connor, President of U.S. Commercial Business for Corteva, and Chairman of the Cultivation Corridor Board of Directors.

The program will be hosted via the Virtual Academy Hub, a professionally managed platform for learning and engagement.

“The companies in the Cultivo Virtual Academy cohort represent a diverse group of new technologies and innovative approaches to a range of agricultural challenges,” said Debi Durham. “As these companies plan their entry into the U.S. marketplace, we look forward to the connections and opportunities that emerge in Iowa as they collaborate with our state’s research centers and agricultural and business leaders.”

Participating companies include:

AgriDigital (Australia)

AgriDigital provides a digital platform for the grain supply chain, including a grain tracking program that enables growers to track and trace their harvest, inventory, and sales.

ARCITEKBio (United Kingdom)

ARCITEKBio Ltd (ABL) has developed a sustainable biotechnological platform for producing the natural sweetener xylitol using proprietary microbial strains and a fermentation-based approach.

Bondi Labs (Australia)

Bondi Labs uses smart glasses and computer-vision detection applications to deliver internal training in meat processing plants and conduct food safety and compliance inspections and audits.

Escavox (Australia)

Escavox uses smart trackers to collect data related to time, temperature, and location of fresh produce and meat products as they travel through the food system from farm to retail shelf.

FarmSee (Israel)

FarmSee develops precision livestock monitoring and growth optimization products based on advanced computer vision and neural networks.

LifeDome (Israel)

LifeDome uses non-invasive and remote sensing technology to monitor temperature, behavior, and other changes to detect potential subclinical diseases for individual animals in livestock barns.

Safe Ag Systems (Australia)

Safe Ag Systems provides a platform to mitigate risk, improve safety behavior, and manage compliance and regulatory requirements and audits for a range of agricultural businesses.

SoftRide (Israel)

SoftRide provides safe and cost-effective autonomous machinery operations in geofenced areas with a seamless, plug-and-play solution for plant protection applications.

SWAN Systems (Australia)

SWAN Systems is a precision irrigation tool developed to optimize water and nutrient use, including precise irrigation scheduling, monitoring of crop health, and tracking progress against water and nutrient budgets.

Cultivo Virtual Academy announces 8 startups in inaugural cohort | 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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