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Gross-Wen Technologies raises $6.5 million Series A round

Ames startup Gross-Wen Technologies has raised a $6.5 million Series A investment round, co-led by ISA Ventures and Iowa Farm Bureau’s Rural Vitality Fund. Other investors included Next Level Ventures, Mid-American Angels, Ankeny Angels, Ag Startup Engine, Oman Ventures, and 1330 Investments.

Gross-Wen Technologies has a patented wastewater treatment technology that uses algae to clean wastewater. Today, many municipalities and industries are looking for new solutions to meet stricter federal water quality requirements cost effectively. Gross-Wen’s patented revolving algae biofilm allows both municipalities and industries to retrofit current treatment plants, addressing nutrient management issues in an economical and sustainable way. The company’s byproduct, algae biomass, can then be packaged and sold as slow-release algal fertilizer or bioplastic. 

“There is a tremendous opportunity for sustainable water treatment technologies. This funding will provide GWT the capital to grow our existing presence in Iowa and the Midwest and provide us the resources to develop new markets across the US,” said Dr. Martin Gross, co-founder and president of Gross-Wen in a release. “We are thrilled to add ISA Ventures, Rural Vitality Fund, and Next Level Ventures as our newest shareholders at GWT. These firms represent the top venture capital firms in Iowa and we look forward to their guidance as we expand our business.” 

Gross-Wen was founded in 2014 by Drs. Martin Gross and Zhiyou Wen. In 2016 and 2017 Gross-Wen won multiple SBIR Grants, resulting in a total of $850,000 worth of non-diluting grant funding. In 2018, the company received a $2 million investment from Doerfer Corporation.

As part of the investment round, the Gross-Wen team will join ISA’s Expansion accelerator program, focusing on pathways towards acquisition and support through their entrepreneurial journey.

Previous coverage

Gross-Wen Technologies Receives $2 million Grant for Algae Partner Project -Feb. 8, 2021

Iowa Startup Accelerator’s new expanded programming helps startups at all stages -Feb. 4, 2021

Gross-Wen Technologies awarded $240,000 grant to develop phosphorus removal technology -July 17, 2020

Gross-Wen Technologies raises $6.5 million Series A 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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