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Iowa Corn Growers Association invests $500k in Låkril Technologies

The Iowa Corn Growers Association led a pre-seed financing round to support Låkril Technologies with a $500,000 venture capital investment to replace petroleum adhesives and super absorbents with home-grown, corn-based alternatives. The Kentucky Corn Promotion Council joined with an additional $100,000 investment.

Låkril’s underlying, proprietary technology was developed at the University of Minnesota and allows for breakthrough acrylic acid yields of greater than 90% from plant-based lactic acid. Låkril has broken through the yield barrier on its way to delivering a plant-based alternative for existing products, at cost parity with petroleum key ingredients. Acrylic acid, which has a global production of over 15 billion lbs. per year from petroleum equivalent to about 800 million bushels of corn, is used in a diverse array of consumer products like diapers, paints and adhesives.

“Iowa Corn is dedicated to finding new uses and markets for corn to meet our mission for long-term Iowa corn farmer profitability,” said Denny Friest, President of the Iowa Corn Growers Association in a news release. “Corn farmers effectively produce corn in a sustainable way, and plant-based products, like acrylic acid, provide consumers with the green materials they are looking for while creating demand for home-grown products from rural America.”

The Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Kentucky Corn Growers Association were joined by grants from the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council, Indiana Corn Marketing Council, Corn Marketing Council of Michigan, and the National Corn Growers Association.

“These projects allow us to develop key portions of our technology platform,” said Låkril Technologies President Chris Nicholas. “We’re pleased with the progress scaling our breakthrough lactic-to-acrylic technology this summer, and appreciate the support from the corn growers, USDA, and DOE which have brought us to over $1,400,000 in pre-seed funding.”

Iowa Corn Growers Association invests $500k in Låkril Technologies | 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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