Over 150 people attended the recent Prairie Crest Capital’s annual Ag Tech Conference in Des Moines, which featured legendary investor Steve Forbes as keynote speaker. Forbes spoke about the importance of technology in agriculture and the impact globalization has had on the industry.
“Over the past 30 years, no industry has become more globally interconnected than agriculture,” said Forbes. “Ag companies are continuing to innovate with cutting-edge research and development. But they cannot succeed without capital. We lead the world by being better, smarter and not being afraid to take risks. Now is the time to take risks and invest in these new technologies, allowing companies and ideas to flourish.”
A major theme of Forbes’ address was people’s willingness to take risks and be an example for the rest of the industry.
Forbes bullish on ag startups
As chairman of Forbes Media Inc., he emphasized the need for ag technology and production to be on the cutting edge to keep developing new ideas. He believes the mergers of large companies in agriculture are good because big companies have the money to continue to invest in research and development. Larger firms will spend money on increasingly costly research and will partner with smaller companies through licensing agreements, or by buying the innovative technology and new products from smaller companies.
A former candidate for U.S. president, Forbes commented on negotiations taking place regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement. He says there are some flaws in the current NAFTA, which is 20 years old. Parts of it are outdated and need fixing, he said. However, Forbes isn’t worried that the current NAFTA negotiations between the U.S., Canada and Mexico aren’t going smoothly. “Frayed nerves are part of negotiating,” he said. “You just have to keep at it. Time is on the side of the U.S. in getting a better deal.”
NAFTA needed for ag trade
Forbes said NAFTA is important for agricultural trade. If it is abandoned, it’s not only going to be bad for the ag sector, but for the entire U.S. economy, he said. Looking at the potential of the Asian market for U.S. products, he’s hopeful the U.S. can get bilateral trade agreements with some of those countries if the Trans Pacific Partnership can’t be revived.
The Ag Tech Conference was held in Des Moines Nov. 9 to connect Midwest intellectual startup businesses and entrepreneurial communities. “Although the Midwest is home to approximately 20% of the U.S. population, top research universities, entrepreneurial talent, and spending on research and development, the region receives less than 5% of venture capital investment,” said Mark White, a partner at Prairie Crest Capital. “The potential for this industry to grow and become even more revolutionary is vast, and I thank all of those who participated in this conference.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds began the one-day conference discussing the key role Iowa plays in the future of agriculture.
Midwest’s ag tech investment
Agricultural investors and innovators talked about a variety of topics and cutting-edge technology. The program focused on the important role the Midwest must play in the ag tech investment effort. Companies at different business stages from across the country showcased their latest ideas featuring new technologies and advancements.
These companies made presentations to pitch their ideas: Power Pollen, Natural Fiber Welding, Ag Pixel, CropPro, Performance Livestock Analytics, Zeavaxx, Wisran, Smart Ag, Automed, Quantified Ag, Terva, Tradelanes and Green Sense Farms.
“Bringing national agricultural assets to the Midwest is vital to help entrepreneurs realize their potential,” said Barry Adams, a Prairie Crest Capital partner. “Entrepreneurs need opportunities to engage with resources, such as markets, capital and expertise that are distributed nationally. By holding this conference, we are able to make that a reality. I look forward to the next few months and years as relationships build and grow this industry.”
Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig closed the event detailing where Iowa stands among the nation as a leader in agriculture and the innovation needed to meet public sector goals.
A video of Steve Forbes being interviewed by Mark White of Prairie Crest Capital is at Vimeo.