Three North Iowa agricultural startups have found success with the assistance of the NIACC Pappajohn Center Venture School program. Value-added agriculture businesses have thrived in the Venture School model. Each of these North Iowa entrepreneurs has a unique vision of how they can revolutionize agriculture.
A Pre-Venture Finds its Footing - Jayson Ryner, ReEnvision Ag
Jayson Ryner of Norah Springs founded ReEnvision Ag with a vision of improving current no-till farming methods. ReEnvision Ag, LLC is developing a unique solution for row crops to maximize yield and profit potential by planting seeds more efficiently – giving row-crop farmers a viable alternative that is environmentally friendly, sustainable, and profitable. Ryner graduated from the Fall 2019 NIACC Venture School cohort where he developed his initial business model and tested the product-market fit. Ryner took first place and the top prize of $10,000 at the statewide Venture School Launch Day Pitch Competition event held virtually June 3-4, 2020. ReEnvision Ag, LLC also received the technology award of $1,000 given to the company with the best emerging technology.
Ryner felt he gained invaluable resources from participating in the NIACC Venture School program. “This is a fantastic honor at the end of my Venture School Journey. I have learned so much from all of the mentors, teachers and other businesses,” he stated.
A Venture Finds its Focus - Mitchell Hora, Continuum Ag
Mitchell Hora, CEO of Continuum Ag, started his journey when he graduated from NIACC Pappajohn Center’s Spring 2019 Venture School cohort. Continuum Ag began as an agricultural consulting company, with its agronomists supporting farmers through services such as soil sampling and fertility recommendations. Venture School helped Hora realize that Continuum Ag could do more than only address the chemical soil component. Continuum Ag has differentiated itself by working directly with farmers, recommending new practices to sequester carbon in agricultural soil, helping farmers modify the way they tend the land to increase overall soil health and facilitating a profitable transition to regenerative agriculture.
Today, the company also has a footprint throughout the country and as far away as South Africa. Continuum Ag has attracted the attention of numerous product manufacturers, who pay Continuum Ag to conduct third party field trials of their agricultural products. In Summer 2021, Continuum Ag was announced as one of the winners of the fifth annual Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. The Challenge is a prestigious and highly competitive online competition that awards cash prizes to early-stage tech entrepreneurs solving the world’s most challenging problems. Continuum Ag was one of the fourth place winners and was awarded $10,000.
A Prototype Finds the Next Level - Zach Smith, Stock Cropper, Inc.
Zack Smith, the co-founder of Stock Cropper Inc., has an innovative approach to revolutionizing row crops. The Cluster Cluck 5000 is a mobile autonomous grazing barn that walks across the ground on its own and moves multiple species of animals, including sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens. The animals graze 20-foot strips of a five-way annual pasture mix between 12 rows of corn. Stock Cropper and the Cluster Cluck 5000 have generated much interest in the field.
When Smith participated in the Fall 2020 NIACC Venture School, he took what he learned to summer 2021 University of Iowa’s statewide Venture School Launch Day competition to win the first-place prize of $10,000. He says, “In Venture School I gained understanding into my market opportunity and how to create and deliver value that my customers want and need.”
NIACC Venture School Now Accepting Fall 2021 Applications
The NIACC John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center is now accepting applications for the Fall 2021 cohort of the University of Iowa’s Venture School program. Venture School is a premier statewide program for entrepreneurs and is built from a streamlined curriculum developed by the National Science Foundation I-Corps at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. Venture School emphasizes real-world entrepreneurship and innovation based on a leading-edge curriculum.
Fall 2021 Venture School classes will be held as a hybrid class with a combination of in-person and online weekly classes via Zoom. Eligible teams may compete for cash awards at the state level during the Venture School Launch Day at EntreFEST in Cedar Rapids. The cost for the course is $299. To apply for the Fall 2021 cohort, visit www.venture-school.com and select the Mason City cohort in the drop down menu.