DES MOINES — The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator (IATA) showcased their 2020 cohort at Demo Day on Thursday, October 15, from 8:00-8:45 a.m. CDT. Osceola FFA Members Konrad Boyer, Tyler Binning, Dean Spalding, Lane Whirrett, Hunter Garrett, Cort Selsor, and middle school student Jack Myers virtually attended the event and were able to witness as these entrepreneurs unveiled their inventions .
The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator, based in Des Moines, Iowa, is a mentor-led accelerator focused on ag-tech innovations. Led by innovators and leaders in several areas of agriculture, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator seeks startups ready to change the status quo. For more information about the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator, visit AgIowa.com. “Earlier this year, agtech entrepreneurs from all around the world applied to the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator,” says IATA Executive Director Nadilia Gomez. “During the program, the startups strengthened their entrepreneurial skills, developed their product, honed their business model, and connected with farmers, industry leaders, and investors.”
Demo Day marks the end of this year’s program and offers an opportunity for the startups to showcase their business ideas to the public. An official side event of The World Food Prize 2020 Borlaug Dialogue, the event was virtual for the first time since the accelerator’s creation, and featured special guest speaker, Paul Schickler, the president of DuPont Pioneer and the four startups that participated this year: Curiosity Labs, Digital Spring, N-Sense, and Sensegrass.
Curiosity Labs is developing microscope devices that use computer vision to examine soil samples and detect the presence of nematodes. In addition, these computer-vision enhanced microscopes can collect visual data that is typically missed by human inspection, enhancing the ability of ag biotech professionals to improve yield and sustainability of farming. We're also exploring new use cases for Artificial Intelligence-enabled microscopy. We knew that our product and expertise could provide market value beyond soil analysis and we are now starting to explore it. Beyond parasite detections, we are adopting our device for engine oil analysis for modes of wear, and thermal spray coating analysis (which is applicable for metallurgy)." They are even looking into adding this type of Artificial Intelligence-enabled microscopy into human health.
Digital Spring will deliver cloud-based agronomic analytic solutions tailored to individual farmers. Their products and services include a web app designed to keep farmers on track with year-end costs, a three-dimensional detailed map of soil moisture and its changes over time, and simulations of next year profits. Digital Spring aims to increase crop yields and reduce input costs in farming operations. "We have retrofitted our radar onto a flying device designed to test measured performance as a function of spot size from 10' through 60'. After our October drone measurements in corn and soybean are recorded, we plan to move our drone to California to scan Almond orchards and deliver irrigation efficiency measurements to farmers in California's Central Valley. With traction, we raise cash, and prepare to fly 1M acres per week in Iowa starting April 2021."
Sensegrass focuses on patented first-of-a-kind Internet-of-Things sensors and Artificial Intelligence algorithms to detect nutrient deficiencies. Combining cutting-edge technology including nano-satellites, robotics, and AI-based mobile & web applications, Sensegrass aims to improve soil efficiency and crop yield, making farming super-efficient & easy. "Our customers, primarily in Europe and Latin America, have smaller farms with less mechanization and greater crop diversity. We seized the opportunity through the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator to learn about farming in the Midwest and explore product-market fit in the US. Now we are a US-based company and plan to establish a local sales team in Iowa by spring."
N-Sense is developing a soil nitrate sensor that can be attached to farm implements and used to determine real-time, on-the-go soil nitrate concentrations. Their sensing technology has sufficient accuracy to facilitate precision application of nitrogen fertilizers enabling sustainable, cost-effective, and environmentally-sound fertilizer management.
Students felt lucky that they got the opportunity to participate in the virtual event. Students had diverse opinions when it came to which was their favorite, but agreed that it was interesting to hear some of the new technology that is being introduced into the world of agriculture.