Building an Ecosystem for Agtech Startups
Technology is nothing new, of course, whether in agriculture of any other industry. What may be new is the speed and scale at which technology can shape new opportunities and disrupt existing businesses and industries. Agtech is by all indications important. There are many accelerator programs related to starting agtech businesses, funding of agtech startups has grown, etc. Funding for agtech startups has increased significantly. As tracked by AgFunder News, investment in agtech increased from about $150 million in 2010 to more than $800 million in 2016 and more than $500 million in 2017. Transactions like Monsanto buying Climate Corp in 2013 for $930 million or in 2017 DuPont Pioneer buying Granular for $300 million certainly got attention of investors, entrepreneurs and agricultural business professionals. Both Climate and Granular were founded in Silicon Valley, the hub for tech startups and investing. Will there be a Climate or Granular type exit event for an agtech startup from the Heartland? Is there an ecosystem for agtech startups apart from Silicon Valley? A 2017 report from M25 examined the Midwest and labeled it as the region that will give rise to the next crop of $1 billion-plus companies (Schulman 2017). From where does that observation arise? What’s going on in the Midwest? This paper will provide examples of Iowa-based developments in agtech, and discussion of larger issues for the ecosystem for agtech startups in the Midwest and the potential implications for economies in rural areas of the region.