Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa (RRIA), a statewide economic development initiative done in partnership with Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa, Iowa Agriculture Finance Corp., and CIPCO, has teamed up with the Ag Startup Engine (ASE) at the Iowa State University (ISU) Research Park to bring education, mentoring, and financing resources to young Iowa entrepreneurs.

The Ag Startup Engine effort was launched last year to help address two fundamental gaps that prevent agricultural startups and entrepreneurs from being more successful in Iowa: early seed stage investment and organized mentorship from Iowans.

“We’re excited to see the next logical step in ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative hitting stride and couldn’t be more supportive of the Ag Startup Engine effort,” says RRIA’s Investment Manager Adam Koppes.

“RRIA’s formula combining business mentoring with networking and funding sources has helped more than 3,000 Iowans realize their business dream and 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 RRIA Economic Development Administrator Sandy Ehrig.

This announcement 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’ Company.

While ISU’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative assisted in the creation and development of the ASE, 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,” commented Kevin Kimle, director of the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. “They’ve 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.”

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,” said 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 ASE aims to continue growing its members and companies in the coming months.