Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa, an economic development initiative, has teamed up with the Ag Startup Engine at Iowa State University Research Park to bring education, mentoring and financing resources to young Iowa entrepreneurs. RRIA is a partnership with Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa, Iowa Agriculture Finance Corp., and CIPCO, the Central Iowa Power Cooperative.
The Ag Startup Engine effort was launched in 2016 to help address two fundamental gaps that prevent agricultural startups and entrepreneurs from being more successful in Iowa: the need for early seed-stage financial investment and organized mentorship from Iowans.
“We’re excited to see the next logical step in ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative hitting stride and we couldn’t be more supportive of the Ag Startup Engine effort,” says Adam Koppes, RRIA investment manager.
Business mentoring, networking, funding
“Our formula at RRIA is combining business mentoring with networking and funding sources, and RRIA has helped more than 3,000 Iowans realize their business dream. That success is crucial to Iowa’s economy. In the past decade, we’ve seen these great ideas bring in more than $125 million in economic impact for rural Iowa,” says Sandy Ehrig, RRIA economic development administrator.
This latest announcement regarding RRIA joining the Ag Startup Engine partnership, comes only two weeks after Next Level Ventures, an Iowa certified Innovation Fund, joined the Ag Startup Engine effort. Renew Rural Iowa and Next Level Ventures join founding members: Summit Agricultural Group, Ag Leader Technologies, Ag Ventures Alliance and Peoples Co.
While ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative assisted in the creation and development of the Ag Startup Engine, it is a private-sector entity governed by its members.
“The Iowa Farm Bureau has long been a significant supporter of agricultural entrepreneurs and rural economic development,” says Kevin Kimle, director of the ISU Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative. “Farm Bureau has been affiliated with the program since its inception almost a decade ago, and their ongoing support for the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative benefits the program significantly and results in formation of businesses and farms that positively impact Iowa’s communities. This partnership with the Ag Startup Engine builds on an already wonderful relationship.”
Helping ag entrepreneurs get started
The Ag Startup Engine aims to provide agricultural entrepreneurs a structured means of moving from a startup concept to a seed-ready business. Working in partnership with ISU’s Startup Factory Accelerator, the program is implementing an infrastructure for mentoring, rapid prototyping, product development, financing and customer acquisition.
“When growing a business, there may come a time when additional expertise is needed. Having the mentoring guidance from each of our partners brings so much to our entrepreneurs in their early days,” notes Joel Harris, co-director of the Ag Startup Engine. “I’m tremendously excited to see what our companies can do when their network broadens, thanks to the help from our partners.”
The Ag Startup Engine aims to continue growing its members and companies in the coming months.
Sources: ISU, Iowa Farm Bureau