|Seed to Silver: Celebrating AgVA's 25th Anniversary|
Ag Ventures Alliance
marked its 25th anniversary on July 29th at The Rustic Barn Venue
in Nora Springs, Iowa, bringing together members from all stages of the company’s journey. Long-time members reconnected, while newer members made valuable connections, highlighting the ambition and collaborative spirit that has been foundational to AgVA.
The event offered lighthearted fun with face painting, yard games, a bounce house, and food trucks in an open house format. The crowd made its way into the barn for a brief ceremony acknowledging people that have made a unique impact on the organization over the years. In this reflective moment, founders, employees, and board directors from across the decades were recognized, their contributions acknowledged, and their vision celebrated. Their relentless dedication has transformed AgVA from a fledgling initiative into a driving force that is shaping the future of agriculture with 330 active, farmer-members and over 50 portfolio companies today.
Eight startups from AgVA's portfolio were featured at the event, representing our commitment to investing in innovation. Displaying technology from algae-based recirculating aquaculture systems to new planter technology, members were able to meet the team from Phospholutions
, ReEnvision Ag
, Midland Co
, Haber Technologies
, and Salin 247
. The engagement between these emerging companies and our long-standing members highlighted AgVA's role in seamlessly connecting traditional agriculture with modern innovation.
At the end of the day, the 25th anniversary of AgVA was not merely a celebration of its past but a shining example of its commitment to creating connections, honoring ag pioneers, and supporting those shaping the future of ag. The man who planted the seed that became Ag Ventures Alliance, Don Hofstrand, said after the event, “We had a good group of guys when we started Ag Ventures Alliance, and it makes me proud to see it continue.” Laughter, applause, and even a few tears perfectly captured the feeling that the best is yet to come from the work AgVA is doing in its mission to increase farm profitability!
Josh Nelson, 41
Married: wife Kate; children, Will, Lillian, Harriett
Josh is a fifth-generation farmer. He grew up on a diversified farm, raising livestock, hay, corn, and soybeans near Belmond. He graduated from Iowa State in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications.
Josh moved back home to farm in December 2012, after working in Ames, Iowa; Waterloo, Iowa; Springfield, Missouri; and Jefferson City, Missouri; and has been working with his two uncles and dad over the last decade. Over that time, Josh was also involved in several enterprises, including serving as the president of a local vegetable growers’ cooperative named North Iowa Fresh. At that time, he met Spencer Stensrude while discussing business planning for NIF.
Josh, now raises registered Highland cattle, manages their 2,500-head hog finisher, as well as growing corn, soybeans, and small grains. His focus is on sustainability in his operation, which includes minimizing tillage and soil disturbance, utilizing cover crops and managing purchased inputs as efficiently as possible. Josh stated, “A year ago, we lost my dad to cancer, which has also made me reconsider the future of farming and the importance of managing farming in a holistic manner.”
Josh is the current chair of the Wright County Soil & Water Conservation Commission and serves on the boards of the Iowa River Watershed Coalition and the Boone River Watershed Authority. He is also active in Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa Soybean Association.
An interesting tidbit is Josh’s uncle, Dave Nelson, was an original member of Ag Ventures Alliance, and is a current board member.
After attending several other AgVA field days, he decided to increase his involvement in Ag Ventures. Last year, he participated in the farmer trial network, and is now a member of the Business Development Committee for AgVA.
|Drone Technology in Ag: Round 3|
I wrote about the second wave of drone technology arriving in agriculture in 2017. The focus was on the transition from imagery to field application. Now favorable regulatory decisions, technological advances, and farmer-driven adoption may usher in the third wave for drones in ag.
Since 2017, two major regulatory pathways have been defined. There is now a pathway and exemption process to fly drones that are over 55 pounds which enables larger drones with higher payloads. There is also a pathway to an exemption for drone swarming that allows one operator to fly more than one drone which is another approach to increase productivity.
Edge processing advances enable drones real-time decision-making abilities, such as when or when not to spray. See & Spray may be the “killer use case” for drone application. This precision approach allows sprayers to discern and address specific crop challenges. Sprayer companies tout reductions in chemical usage by up to 90% using See & Spray. If adopted in drones, this could mean covering up to 10 times their current range per flight! It is a shift that could reshape the debate on drone battery and payload constraints.
Cost and Productivity
Now, let’s talk numbers. Traditional self-propelled sprayer productivity can be estimated at 100 acres per hour. Several drone companies and operators report figures as high as 40 acres per hour today. When you put the DJI T40's price tag of $29,000 next to a self-propelled sprayer at $400,000+, the cost-to-productivity ratio is changing. Next, will See & Spray systems turn the $29,000 drone into a 400 acre per hour spraying machine?
Yet, challenges persist and there is not a commercial See & Spray system for drones today. Drones travel very fast through a field, and it just might be that processing data on the edge is not fast enough to tell the difference between the crop and weeds. If you are working on solutions in this category, we want to talk to you!
Reflecting on our 2017 observations and comparing them to today's realities, the message is clear: Agriculture's future is a blend of sky-high innovation and grounded, farmer-led initiatives. We are working to build a better future by investing in innovation to increase farm profitability. How do you see ag drones and See & Spray technology playing out over the coming years? Share your thoughts with our team to help shape the future of ag!
has been selected by Tyson and Tyson Ventures as Startup in Residence! Tyson is the largest US food company and the second largest in the world with a network of over 11,000 farms. Hundreds of companies around the world applied, 11 were selected to meet the executives in Arkansas, and only four were selected to move forward including GenoTwin. They will be working with Tyson across upcycling and sustainability solutions for a more sustainable food system.
was recently awarded an NSF SBIR phase II grant for $1M! They also received funding from the United Soybean Board and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. These funds will be used to continue development of their eco-friendly biological products for crop protection.
is delighted to have five of the US’ ten largest fleets lead their Fleet Council. And now, a major milestone looms as they begin piloting with one of these entities this summer. Five ClearFlame trucks have been steadily clocking road miles over the last several months and a sixth is joining soon. Potential customers have been riding in the cab, giving positive feedback on how the engines perform like a diesel fueled engine. This pilot will move ClearFlame closer to driver acceptance and highlight how 300,000 diesel mechanics can easily service these trucks.
continues to advance their testing of the Weed Seed Destroyer and Seed Priming products. They have built strategic partnerships with large equipment manufacturers and are continuing to test new versions of their products. They filed additional patents for seedling stimulation and are working on an application for an additional weed seed project. Global Neighbor is collaborating with Texas A&M, University of Idaho, University of Western Australia, Central State University, and Kansas State University.
The Countryside Angels formed their tenth syndicate in May with an investment in Continuum Ag
. Mitchell Hora founded Continuum Ag in 2015 as an agricultural consulting company, specializing in the Haney Soil Health Test. Today, Continuum is a soil health data intelligence company and uses its TopSoil Tool to enable farmers to profit from improving their soil health. Regenerative Ag is the future, and it simply is a better system for farmers. Carbon Intensity, sustainability, and other environmental outcomes are now bringing corporate players to the table. The company has been able to take this opportunity in stride and serves as a catalyst to enable collaboration between farmers and supply chain partners.
Ag Ventures Alliance has announced an investment in EIWA
, an ag-tech company poised to revolutionize the agricultural data landscape. EIWA's innovative approach to aggregating and analyzing agronomic data through their flagship product, EIWA VAULT, aims to drive transformative change in the ag-tech sector.
EIWA is on a mission to bridge the gap between siloed agricultural data and cutting-edge technological advancements. With a focus on mobilizing agronomic knowledge, EIWA's platform aims to create the ultimate farming ecosystem data cloud. The prevailing challenge of disjointed data has hindered the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and agronomic understanding across various sectors of the agriculture industry.
The heart of EIWA's solution lies in EIWA VAULT, a groundbreaking data cloud platform. EIWA VAULT ingests and standardizes data from diverse sources including machinery, drones, satellites, and weather analytics. By unifying fragmented data silos, the platform offers a comprehensive view of agricultural insights, driving data-driven decision-making. The platform goes beyond data aggregation, providing data processing and analysis tools for farmers while also enabling data monetization, a breakthrough that hasn't been achieved in the industry until now.
EIWA's achievements have already garnered remarkable traction. The company has demonstrated market leadership in the soybean breeding sector, managing an impressive 70% of global soybean genetics. Furthermore, EIWA's diverse customer base has grown rapidly beyond soy breeding, as they are attracting other major players in the ag-data space. This burgeoning interest showcases the transformative potential of EIWA's approach to data handling.
The investment from Ag Ventures Alliance will fuel EIWA's growth journey by supporting key initiatives including expanding its global support and customer success teams, reaching $6 million in sales within two years, establishing commercial teams in crucial geographies such as the US, Brazil, and Argentina, enhancing the EIWA VAULT to cater to large farmer segments, and launching an analytics library.
Ag Ventures Alliance is excited to collaborate with EIWA to accelerate the deployment of innovative solutions that address data challenges and unlock new opportunities across the agricultural value chain. The company's dedication to transforming siloed data into actionable insights aligns seamlessly with Ag Ventures Alliance's commitment to driving ag-tech innovation.
EIWA's executive team, led by CEO and Co-founder Nicolas Otamendi, CRO Carlos Hirsh, and CTO Juan Caracoche, brings together decades of industry expertise and innovation, ensuring the company is poised for success.
The investment from Ag Ventures Alliance not only signifies farmer support for EIWA but also reinforces the strong potential for growth and innovation in the ag-tech sector. EIWA is set to reshape the landscape of agricultural data utilization and technological advancement, ultimately benefiting farmers, agribusinesses, and the entire industry.
The dog days of summer are upon us, it was great meeting several of you at the 25th Anniversary event. We had really great attendance from our portfolio companies. I hope you had a chance to chat with them. For me, I know it was great seeing the updates and changes we as farmers helped them implement, some subtle…. some drastic. When we talk to the founders at such an event, it seems they get a deeper sense of the value we offer.
Out in the field, we have implemented a few more trials the past couple of weeks with Bioverse Labs, which is an insect detection device that allows farmers to remotely monitor insect populations remotely. It has been a learning experience for all involved. The value for these companies getting out on farms and in remote areas is invaluable to the success and future of their companies. They have the chance to learn and experience reality…. outside of a lab situation.
Another trial we have started is Spornado, which is a disease alert system. We are just in time for that as I am seeing reports of tar spot showing up in the area, we have the sensors. It should be interesting to see if we catch valuable data off these sensors.
Lastly, we have started a monthly zoom call for farmer trial members. It is the third Friday of the month at 7:00 am. The structure is pretty loose with the ultimate goal of helping build value into the network by sharing both what is working as well as what is not working. Some of the best conversations thus far are data sharing, or insight into things folks have seen on their trial, so others know what to look out for. If you are interested or have questions, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com
or (563) 380-1149.
Sound Agriculture (Rich Haynes) - Brighton, IA
Sara & Carl Carlsson - Mason City, IA