An Iowa State University expert on agricultural entrepreneurship told members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 15 that expanded and more varied funding sources and earlier exposure to entrepreneurship in Iowa schools can create new opportunities for advances in agricultural technology.
Kevin Kimle, the Rastetter Chair of Agricultural Entrepreneurship, a senior lecturer in economics and the director of the ISU Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, testified before the House small-business subcommittee on agriculture, energy and trade. He pointed out the percentage of venture capital dollars available last year to the Midwest lagged far behind what it should be, based on the population of the region.
Need to cultivate more sources of venture capital
Kimle said additional sources of venture capital, especially from sources based in Iowa, as well as other funding resources would bolster the state’s climate for ag startups. He also said increasing exposure of Iowa students to entrepreneurship in college and high school could pay dividends in the future as well.
Kimle highlighted a course he teaches at Iowa State that requires students to develop three concepts for ag startup businesses over the course of a semester and then deliver a presentation on the concept with the most potential.
Iowa’s rural communities would benefit
Kimle said Iowa’s rural communities would benefit from such investments due to the resulting advances in agriculture technology, as well as from the possibility of new startups locating in rural communities. “Rural communities should be able to participate in various ways, and that’s going to make for a better, more prosperous rural America,” he said following the hearing.
Two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation took part in the hearing. Rep. Rod Blum of Iowa’s 1st district serves as the subcommittee’s chairman, and Rep. Steve King of Iowa’s 4th district sits on the panel as well.
Kimle’s full testimony, as well as video footage of the hearing, are available on the House Small Business Committee’s website.
Big data workshop Feb. 26-27
In other news from ISU, a workshop is upcoming that will examine how big data can benefit agricultural producers. It’s set for Feb. 26-27 at the Scheman Center on campus in Ames.
“The Big Data for Sm(all) Farmers Workshop” was organized to inform those with small- and medium-sized operations about current and future big data research, resources and technologies. The workshop will introduce data resources and technologies useful to farmers, regardless of scale.
“Big data are an essential part of agriculture today. This workshop will help introduce farmers to experts, technical aspects of data and analytical tools that are available and could be developed and deployed to make small- and medium-sized farm and food enterprises more sustainable,” says Joe Colletti, interim dean of Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Workshop to focus on ag needs
The workshop includes presentations and panel discussions with technology leaders, researchers and farmers. The focus is to address the specific needs for big data and technology in agriculture. The goal is to help ensure that producers of all sizes and scales are not left behind as the age of big data moves forward.
“Big data” describes the large volumes of data that inundate every aspect of business today. The workshop will help farmers understand how sources of data can be analyzed for insights, therefore leading to better decisions and strategic business moves, Colletti says.
The workshop includes opening remarks by Parag Chitnis, deputy director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at USDA. Other speakers include Robert Zabawa, research professor, ag economics, Tuskegee University; Dennis Todey, director, Midwest Climate Hub, USDA; David Miller, Research and Commodity Services director, Iowa Farm Bureau; Kevin Price, vice president, Research and Technology Development, AgPixel LLC; Dan Frieberg, president, Premier Crop Systems LLC; Conrad Bonsi, associate director, Experiment Station, College of Ag, Environment and Nutrition Sciences, Tuskegee University; and Olga Bolden-Tiller, assistant dean, College of Agriculture, Tuskegee University.
Iowa State specialists to present
Experts from ISU include Alejandro Plastina, professor of ag economics; Priyanka Jayashankar, adjunct professor, management; Pat Schnable, agronomy professor and Plant Sciences Institute director; Sotirios Archontoulis, assistant professor, agronomy; Craig Chase, program manager, Local Foods Program; Kevin Kimle, director of ISU’s Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative; Lie Tang, associate professor, ag and biosystems engineering; Liang Dong, associate professor, electrical and computer engineering; and Mike Castellano, associate professor, agronomy.
Information and registration are available online.