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Why Iowa Profile: Nadilia Gomez

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Why Iowa? Q&A with Nadilia Gomez

As Chief Technology Officer for the Digital and Precision Agriculture Bioscience Platform at Iowa State University, Nadilia Gomez works closely with Iowa State University researchers to identify technologies with commercial potential in the Digital and Precision Agriculture space. She also works in tandem with the BioConnect Iowa CEO and staff to prioritize relevant opportunities for commercial development within Iowa.

Gomez is a native of Panama, where she studied Botany at the University of Panama. She earned an M.S. in Plant Biological Sciences and a Ph.D. in Applied Plant Sciences with an emphasis on Plant Breeding and Molecular Genetics at the University of Minnesota, then came to Iowa in 2010 to take a role at DuPont Pioneer, now Corteva Agriscience. Over nine years, she held multiple roles in the development and prioritization of digital ag solutions before serving as Executive Director for the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator.

You have likely had many opportunities to pursue your career outside of Iowa – why have you stayed?

I love being “in on the ground floor” of big things, and that’s what Iowa feels like to me. There’s a lot of momentum in both living and working in Iowa and plenty of room to contribute to its growth and development. There are lots of fun things for everyone to do and excellent schools. I love that there are lots of opportunities to volunteer and serve the community and develop leadership skills. 

A great deal of effort has been put into developing Iowa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is combined with its strong legacy and a promising future as a leader in agriculture.  Iowa is also the birthplace of the first electronic digital computer and Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, so I give it extra points for that! 

You’ve served as CTO for the Digital and Precision Agriculture research and innovation platform at Iowa State for a few months. What are your priorities in this new role?

The caliber of the ag-tech research going on at Iowa State is phenomenal. What excites me the most, however, is the opportunity this role provides to help transform that research into commercial products and services to help agriculture be more sustainable and profitable.

My goals are to identify problems, pain points, and opportunities for transformation in agriculture production systems; scout for great ideas and robust research within the university community that can address those problems; connect research efforts across academia, industry, and farmers so we can proactively develop technologies to address critical challenges in ag systems; and accelerate the process from invention to commercialization so more of those technologies can be put into production at scale. 

You’ve now worked in several key areas of the state’s ag and bioscience industry – a multinational company, a startup accelerator, and a university – how do all three of these areas work together to boost innovation and provide an advantage to Iowa-based entrepreneurs?

You need all these key areas to boost innovation in Iowa. There are also a lot of partnerships that bring brilliant people together and allow organizations to contribute in different ways to innovation in the state.

Another advantage for Iowa-based entrepreneurs is something that can often be underestimated: everyone seems to be closely connected to farming. I was at the grocery store the other day, and an employee was telling me how concerned he and his grandfather were about the drought conditions we’re experiencing this year. That evening at a women’s leadership networking event, I met a C-suite executive in information technology with a farming background who still goes back to her hometown in rural Iowa every spring and fall to help her father with the planting and harvest. From lawyers to sales professionals, business executives to investors and bankers, most Iowans I know still have a connection to farming. Combine that experience with a talented workforce and a willingness to mentor and support entrepreneurship; you have a unique resource for entrepreneurs and startups that sets Iowa apart from the rest.

What recommendations do you have for people considering a move to Iowa? 

Iowa is particularly worth exploring if you are interested in working or studying in high-tech industry growth areas. It has all the perks without the exorbitant price tag.

More importantly, roll up your sleeves and become engaged in your community. Iowa is full of visionary people with big ambitions and lots of energy and dedication. And, it’s still growing! So, if you think something is worth starting and you don’t see it represented in Iowa yet, be the one to make it happen. Iowa is a fertile ground — literally and figuratively — for cultivating a lot of great potential!

Please give us 3 recommendations of places to go or things to do in Iowa. 

Visit the Greater Des Moines Botanic Garden. I love the food at the Trellis Cafe, the music events in the garden, the fun family-friendly activities, and the garden shop is my favorite place to get one-of-a-kind gifts for all occasions.

Choose a fabulous performing arts event at the Des Moines Civic Center and build an entire experience around it, starting with a visit to the Iowa State Capitol building, a stroll through the East Village shops, a stop at the gardens of the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates, and add lots of stops to savor the delicious treats from coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants in the area.

Pick a destination anywhere on the map of Iowa (don’t ignore rural settings) and customize your trip with the “Build Your Trip” feature of the Travel Iowa website. You can find chocolate shops, scenic river drives, museums, mansions, old wooden bridges, microbreweries, and unique Iowa attractions. There’s really so much to explore!