A lack of organized mentorship and initial seed funding in Iowa led the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative at Iowa State University to push for the Ag Startup Engine last year.
"Students and alumni of the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative may have a great idea, but do not have a clear path forward as it relates to funding," said Kevin Kimle, initiative director. "They typically take a job or remain in one, never to return to their idea."
The Ag Startup Engine is a systematic program designed to guide agricultural entrepreneurs toward success with the help of business professionals and financial support. The program works alongside the ISU Startup Factory, a broader initiative that works to foster technology-based businesses with Iowa State students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
"The Ag Startup Engine is a key piece of an emerging, vibrant ecosystem for agricultural entrepreneurs," Kimle said.
In return for a stake in equity, investors provide start-ups with
the funding they need for facilities with offices as well as fabrication and testing spaces, access to Iowa State's facilities and equipment, prototype development assistance from technical experts at the university, a mentoring program, and structured paths to obtain additional funding.
The Ag Startup Engine has already proven successful for three companies:
- Performance Livestock Analytics is helping livestock producers become more sustainable and profitable through a precision agricultural application.
- SmartAg develops software and hardware that enable farmers to use and benefit from internet-connected machinery.
- Gross-Wen Technologies is commercializing a patent-pending algal wastewater treatment technology developed at Iowa State.
The Ag Startup Engine is a private-sector entity with offices in the ISU Research Park. Leading agricultural firms in the state own and govern the Ag Startup Engine, and fund the start-ups that are advancing agriculture in Iowa.