Young Iowa startups launched to success through Iowa Farm Bureau’s RRIA Program

Two Iowa companies mentored to success through Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) Renew Rural Iowa program (RRIA) are semi-finalists in the national Farm Bureau® Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Performance Livestock Analytics (PLA), founded by northern Iowa cattlemen, Dane and Dallas Kuper, along with Inland Sea, a Harlan-based company that intends to farm Atlantic salmon, each earned $10,000 for making it to the semi-final round.

Check out the videos each company submitted for the Challenge below.

This is the third year in a row that Iowa-mentored companies have been recognized in the national business competition, which focuses on rural entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses. These innovative young Iowans have worked very hard to take a good idea, and grow it to a marketable business model. The fact that they competed with 354 other great ideas across the country to earn distinction tells you a lot about the promise of these companies, and the success that’s possible through a business mentoring and financial guidance program, such as RRIA,” says IFBF’s Economic Development Administrator, Sandy Ehrig.

Vying for a total prize pool of $145,000 in startup funds, all competitors pitch their business ideas to a team of judges, who have expertise in business development and agribusiness.

Semi-finalists win $10,000 in startup funds, which is an added bonus to get innovative ideas from the drawing board to the operational stage.

That’s how Dane Kuper, his brother Dallas and their co-founder, Dustin Balsley, helped bring their ‘Cattle Krush’ management platform to cattle farmers. Cattle Krush brings real-time market insights to cattlemen, commodity advisors and other cattle industry stakeholders. This software is accessible on any mobile, laptop or desktop device. Kuper says the program helps cattle farmers make decisions regarding the buying, selling and marketing of cattle. Co-founder Kuper says getting their good idea from the blackboard to the boardroom first took a call to Renew Rural Iowa’s Adam Koppes.

“Adam really helped us sit down and look at how to actually build a scalable, repeatable business, outside of just innovating new products and technologies. Adam is one of the first guys we sat down with when we were just in the concept stage. We didn’t know a lot of things; how do we build a business, how do we find resources and employees and how do we find access to capital? That’s where Adam really helped us get a framework together on specific milestones we’d need to hit. He also carries a young entrepreneurial mindset, plus he has a lot of experience with a startup business himself. It’s the kind of experience that helped us get our business off the ground,” says Kuper.

The AFBF Challenge also saw the potential in Inland Sea, another new business that received business mentoring from RRIA. When fully operational, the proposed facility in Harlan would produce 5.3 million pounds of salmon per year. U.S. salmon demand exceeds 850 million pounds per year. Jackson Kimle, vice president of business development for Inland Sea, and Kevin Kimle, president, are encouraged that the Challenge sees the opportunity offered by Inland Sea. “This facility will be a very large chunk of the market that is hungry for more salmon,” Jackson said. “Consumers spend more than $5 billion annually on salmon in the United States. Once the facility is fully operational, it could consistently harvest 100,000 pounds of salmon every week.”

IFBF has long been a proponent of rural economic sustainability and launched RRIA ten years ago, to encourage business growth in Iowa’s rural communities. Nearly 90 percent of Iowa’s farmers rely on off-farm income. “Fostering innovation helps keep young Iowans in rural Iowa, so we want to continue to find ways to nurture those ideas and keep that success close to home,” says IFBF Investment Manager, Adam Koppes. RRIA offers business mentoring and financial guidance through seminars, online resources and one-on-one counseling. To date, RRIA has helped more than 3,000 Iowans realize their potential by attending one of RRIA’s 46 business mentoring and financial guidance seminars across the state. The end result: $125 million in economic impact for rural Iowa and two national Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge national winners, from 2014 and 2015 (ScoutPro in ’14, AccuGrain in ’15).

RRIA’s next “Journey To Your Vision” entrepreneur mentoring seminar is coming up November 10 in Clarinda. To register, visit Additional seminars are scheduled throughout 2016 and 2017, all around the state.