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ISU Research Park announces new Alliant Energy Agriculture Innovation Lab

Iowa State University Research Park (ISURP) and Alliant Energy announced this week plans to build a new multi-tenant collaboration space to be built this summer. 

The Alliant Energy Agriculture Innovation Lab will provide more than 85,000 square feet for ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Digital Ag Innovation team as well as agriculture-based business tenants to access technology, research, development, and each other for innovation opportunities primarily focused on digital and precision agriculture. 

“This project is the latest in our long-standing partnership with Alliant Energy,” said Rick Sanders, president, ISU Research Park in a release. “Our mutual goal, to invest and innovate in the agriculture industry, will take a significant step forward in this collaborative new building. It will afford us the opportunity to create an epicenter of agricultural innovation here in the Midwest.”

The Alliant Energy Agriculture Innovation Lab is expected to be completed by the fall of 2024. It will pair collaborative office and agricultural workshop space to allow for a unique and innovative work environment in Central Iowa. Over 70% of the building will feature high bay and lab space. The ISU digital and precision agriculture program will leverage this new space to grow and become a world leader in ag tech innovation. 

“Alliant Energy is proud to partner with Iowa State University and Iowa State University Research Park to advance innovative research through this forward-thinking and strategic project,” said John Larsen, Chairman & CEO of Alliant Energy. “Creating space for the emergence of cutting-edge technology and collaboration opportunities in agriculture innovation will help build stronger communities across Iowa, the Midwest, and beyond.” 

The facility will contain space for companies engaged in collaborative work with the Digital Agriculture Innovation team. It will also include a robust atrium and shared conferencing spaces to encourage collaboration between stakeholders. 

The research team, led by Iowa State professor Dr. Matt Darr, is responsible for more than 50% of industry research at Iowa State. The team boasts more than 70 patents and distinct tech transfer outcomes as well as 32 products sold globally that impact agriculture daily. This accounts for significant external investment in Iowa through federal and industry partnerships and the support and creation of more than 300 central Iowa-based agriculture technology jobs. The new Alliant Energy Agriculture Innovation Lab will allow the team extended space to scale and collaborate more deeply with companies from across the state on agriculture technology projects. 

The lab will be located on Iowa State University Research Park land, just south of the Ames Fitness Center on University Boulevard. The facility will be a front door to the vast array of agricultural and scaling assets at ISU Research Park and ISU College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Research Farms, including the Alliant Energy Solar Farm at Iowa State University. The building is envisioned to be the first of a multi-phase expansion at the research park in the precision and digital agriculture space. 

ISU Research Park announces new Alliant Energy Agriculture Innovation Lab | 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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