This article was originally published May 16, 2017 at Silicon Prairie News
The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator is seeking early-stage companies with an idea, intellectual property or prototype for agricultural innovation to participate in their inaugural cohort beginning on July 10 in Des Moines, Iowa.
“We’re excited about the interest we’ve received throughout the AgTech community,” says Tej Dhawan, interim director of the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator. “We’ve received some impressive applicants but still encourage candidates to apply for this year’s class.”
The chosen companies will receive intensive mentoring and $40,000 in seed funding, field trips to investor and mentor companies that will complement office time for holistic education, outreach, networking and presentation opportunities, as well as a graduation ceremony held during the World Food Prize in October.
The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator has support from some of the largest and well-known AgTech companies in Iowa who have been instrumental in the creation of the program, providing mentorship and helping lead the startups toward commercial viability.
Dhawan said that organizers wanted to focus on what the region and its companies are already succeeding at.
“Our goal was to launch something that was in line with the natural strengths of the region,” said Dhawan. “We are seeking up to six startups with viable AgTech concepts; we look forward to helping launch their ideas through this program.”
Companies from anywhere in the world can be accepted to the accelerator and applicants are not just limited to those with Midwestern roots. Companies are also not expected to relocate in the Midwest after graduation.
Dhawan and other organizers believe that companies should be headquartered where they will best be able to thrive.
“We understand that commercialization happens where it makes sense so if the company,” said Dhawan.
The AgriTech Accelerator is also open to any level of tech or farm professional and beyond. Dhawan said they’re looking for a thinker who has invented the next big thing, not just someone from a lab or academic background.
“We’re looking for the person on the field, the farmer or their family members who tend to innovate because they know of a problem and they have an idea how to solve it,” said Dhawan. “We’re looking for meaningful, measurable and commercializable [solutions] that can make our food sources even more stable and sustainable.”
The program enrollment is capped at six startups, but Dhawan said the goal is to find the right companies for the accelerator rather than meeting a quota. They want to startups that will best benefit from the program, mentors and the accelerator’s unique dedicated Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR).
“Any accelerator’s real benefit is the mentors that step up to the plate,” said Dhawan. “There will be 4 EIRs who will spend a considerable amount of time [with the startups] beyond what mentors are able to. We’re going to pick the EIRs based on the needs of the companies being selected.”
Graduation from the accelerator will be held in October in conjunction with the World Food Prize, an international award recognizing individuals who have increased the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world.
“Our focus is on who the customers of the startups products are,” said Dhawan. “The global audience at the World Food Prize is truly the customer that they’re after.”
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