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Dryland Genetics Raises $3.8 million fundraising round

Dryland Genetics in Ames has raised $3.8 million in venture funding in a round led by Next Level Ventures and Stine Seed Farm, with additional investment coming from the company’s existing investors.

Founded in 2014 and based at the ISU Research Park, Dryland Genetics employs advanced breeding technologies to create a more resilient and sustainable food supply. The company has dramatically increased the yield of proso, a water use efficient grain grown in the high plains from Texas to Canada, with approximately a half-million acres under production in Colorado, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  The company plans to use the funding to expand its seed sales and marketing staff, including the recruitment of a Chief Commercial Officer. 

“Sustainable food production throughout the world is increasingly limited by water. Proso’s ability to produce a crop where other grains cannot be grown without irrigation is an exciting opportunity for farmers, livestock producers and food companies. Dryland Genetics’ proso produces more grain using less water than other grains, positioning it to play a growing role in securing our nation’s sustainable food supply. Dryland Genetics’ success in using conventional breeding technology to increase crop yields enables farmers to make more money while increasing the supply of this sustainable grain,” said Duane Harris at Next Level Ventures in a release.  “Our team is greatly impressed by what Dryland Genetics has accomplished.”

“We are thrilled with the success of our new proso varieties, as well as the support of our growers and investors as we seek more efficient ways to feed the world in an increasingly challenging environment for agriculture. This investment will allow Dryland Genetics to scale the company so that we can ultimately serve additional farmers and food manufacturers, with the goal of creating a more resilient and sustainable food supply for consumers,” said Dr. James Schnable, co-founder of Dryland Genetics.

Dryland Genetics Raises $3.8 million fundraising round | 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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