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Kimle: Regenerative Agriculture – A Movement?

Guest post by Kevin Kimle.

What do investors look for when evaluating innovative opportunities? It depends on the investor, but I am in search of surprise. Innovation cannot be predicted. Innovation cannot be planned. It is not foreseeable. So, when looking for opportunities with upside I look for the surprising, the unexpected, maybe even the strange.

At Continuum Ag’s June 2021 Field Day in Washington, Iowa, I kept hearing a word that I found interesting, perhaps surprising. The word? ‘Movement.’ Remarks from folks such as Continuum Ag Founder and CEO Mitchell Hora, Rick Clark from Clark Land & Cattle, Dr. Rick Haney and others all talked about regenerative agriculture as a movement. 

Does agriculture have movements? I write that with some humor, but I still recall a magnet on my wife’s grandparent’s fridge. “Start a Movement. Eat a Prune,” it read. It sort of reflects a Midwestern ethos of not getting overly excited about much. Maybe football loyalties. But otherwise, not too much.

We talked to Mitchell and some others at the event in this video montage

Regenerative agriculture is a set of holistic land management practices that leverage the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and build soil health, crop resilience and nutrient density. Regenerative agriculture improves soil health, primarily through the practices that increase soil organic matter. Integration of cover crops, new crop rotations, integration of livestock, and many more practices represent activities that are a part of what these folks call a movement.

Certainly the Field Day held evidence for me of entrepreneurial and innovative activity.

  1. Community Building – It takes a diverse group of talented people to figure out new and innovative things, and it was present at the Field Day. Farmers, agronomists, land owners, technologists, advocates, scientists, and maybe even a professor or two were represented.
  2. Learning By Doing – The only thing you know when you try new things, is that often they will not work. So you need to try things, fail fast, learn and build toward success. There were many examples provided of past and present trials, experiments, failures and successes. And fields to tour.
  3. Peers and Mentors – Mentoring is a key activity to learning new and complex things, and there were many examples of this present at the Field Day. And part of the purpose of the event was to bring people together who would not otherwise meet.
  4. Language of Aspiration – The word ‘movement’ indicates higher aspiration. And motion and action toward that aspiration.

For his 7,000 acre farm, Rick Clark commented that he had not purchased synthetic potassium or phosphorus in eight years, synthetic nitrogen in three years, that he no longer purchases crop insurance and he does not take government payments. The crowd applauded. Many, myself included, purchased all those and took government payments. The applause comes from an aspiration to farm in new and surprising ways.

It was a good day for the culture in agriculture.

Kevin Kimle currently serves as the Rastetter Chair of Agricultural Entrepreneurship at Iowa State University, Director of the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, and Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Economics. This story was originally published on ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative site.

Kimle: Regenerative Agriculture - A Movement? | 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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