A Scouting Report Update

Written by: Lexi Marek, Iowa State Sophomore in Ag Business

Marek, Lexi 6

It seems like just a few weeks ago I was writing for AgEI, reflecting on my Semester Inc Internship with ScoutPro.  Now I am over half way through my summer internship with ScoutPro.   Although this growing company has not changed much in the past few months, my role in the business has.

ScoutPro was developed by three students at Iowa State University, hoping to develop an app that would make scouting reports easier and available online.  The company was launched in 2011 with an app that allowed customers to record scouting reports on an iPad and synch to a website.  The app now includes many features, such as a search index, GPS pins, mapping, stand count and yield check calculations, and soon weather will be added to the data.

Marek, Lexi 2

This spring, I spent most of my time working on social media and creating tutorial videos.  Lately, I have been doing a lot of app testing and creating marking materials that will be used to grow the company and better serve their customers.  While improvements have been made to the app, this has caused the app not to work as well.  I worked hand in hand with the Vice President of the company, testing the app and looking at scouting reports so we could quickly fix the glitch.  My boss would directly speak with the customer and I would look up the scouting reports and record what was missing.  I would then share this data with the tech team in India and they would work to fix the problem.  I soon became aware of the amount of effort that is needed to meet your customer’s needs, in order to make a small business grow and be successful.   I also learned that, especially in a technology company, testing and not becoming discouraged is important.  Many times I was instructed to “break” the app, which meant using different scenarios to figure out why the app was not properly working.  The most difficult part of that task was remembering what steps I took to making the app not work properly.  This was not a fast procedure, because we wanted to thoroughly make sure the app was completely fixed and in working order.  Although this project became repetitive, I learned a lot about dealing with difficulties as well as became even more familiar with the product of the company.

Marek, Lexi 3

A few other projects I have worked on consist of recording data and creating marketing campaigns.  I have been able to visit Iowa State University’s Research Agronomy Farm to take pictures of the weeds at different stages, so ScoutPro has more options and data.  I have also complied lists of emails and literature that will be sent to prospective customers.  My latest project consisted of researching various trade shows that ScoutPro can attend to increase publicity.

Marek, Lexi 4

Overall this internship has been a great experience where I have learned about growing and marketing a small company.  I also have gained experience in the agronomy and technology field and I am looking forward to my final weeks with ScoutPro.

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An International Experience in Iowa

-Written By:  Trey Forsyth

Trey Forsyth, Iowa State Sophomore, Agricultural Business

Trey Forsyth, Iowa State Sophomore, Agricultural Business

Shortly after I accepted my internship position with Insta-Pro International, friends and family began to ask me what my plans were for the summer. With the exception of knowing that I was living in Des Moines and working for Insta-Pro, I really didn’t know what to say. I had done my research about the company, where words like “high-shear extrusion” and “textured soy protein” showed up. Now, as an Agriculture Business major, I can’t say that I am the world’s greatest scientist. I had no idea how to explain to these people what Insta-Pro was all about, since I could barely wrap my head around the concepts myself.

Less than a couple of hours into my first day, I exited the shop and headed back to my cubicle, where the smell of fish feed could not be mistaken on my brand new work clothes. Now although this scent wasn’t my favorite of all time, I could proudly say I now knew what Insta-Pro does.

Insta-Pro International, which started in the 1960s, manufactures extruders (as well as preconditioners, coolers, and oil-presses), which are sold all around the world. These high-shear and medium-shear extruders process soy and other oilseeds. These machines are capable of transforming both raw crops into edible food and feed forms such as pellets or meal, as well as creating products like soy oil.

This internship is an extremely unique opportunity, working for a very unique company. Although I am not spending any time in a foreign country or visiting various cultures of the world, the work that we do is focused literally all around the world. A typical day in the office often consists of two people having a conversation in Spanish just outside my cubicle, receiving a phone call from one of our sales directors stationed in Russia, taking a look at how the soybean markets in India have been lately, and sending supplies down-under to one of our salesmen for a tradeshow in Australia – all in just one day. At times it feels as though I am working for a small company, yet Insta-Pro International’s reach to places all over the globe amazes me.

Insta-Pro’s extruders are extremely useful to smallholder farmers in developing countries. When problems like poor infrastructure, lack of transportation, and political instability make it hard and expensive for these farmers to get their crops to processing centers, our extruders allow them to process their crops directly on their farms.

Insta-Pro CEO Kevin Kacere is pictured with a customer in Africa, who extruded 2,000 tons of corn-soy blend for by the World Food Program, which will be used to help feed the world.

Insta-Pro CEO Kevin Kacere is pictured with a customer in Africa, who extruded 2,000 tons of corn-soy blend for by the World Food Program, which will be used to help feed the world.

One of the great things about an internship is adapting to the changes around you. About a week before my internship, I was informed that my direct supervisor would be starting a job with another company after my first week. The only other person in the marketing department, the Vice President of Marketing and Sales, would also be leaving for Australia for some customer visits as well as a tradeshow for two weeks in June, which left the marketing department with one person in the office – me. I was very excited for the chance to keep myself motivated with projects that had been assigned to me while my supervisors were away, and other people in the office were very supportive in helping with the transitional process. Many new duties came up during this time, but learning and adapting helped me to succeed in getting tasks accomplished. Now things in the office are seemingly back to normal, and looking back at the past few weeks, it was a really great learning experience having to handle the unexpected.

Over the past six weeks, I have had many different projects as Insta-Pro International’s Marketing Intern. I started out investigating our social media platforms and finding ways to enhance our presence online. Insta-Pro keeps very up-to-date on the Internet, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and newsletters, all of which I have been managing this summer.

Another project that I have been focusing on is marketing and commodity research in both India and Europe. Analyzing market data and trends over the last few years helps the company to decide where to focus our efforts as we progress in the future – which crops we should be trying to make our machines compatible with, which countries have the most potential with our extruders, etc.

An example of the commodity data collected focusing on different countries in Europe.

An example of the commodity data collected focusing on different countries in Europe.

Other projects that have come along throughout my time here include providing brochures, clothing, and supplies to other employees, planning a clinic that will take place with customers in the fall, and working with employees to get new blogs onto our website each week.

Having the opportunity to work for an international company has helped me gain a lot of insight on the global market that is today’s economy. I have really enjoyed getting to work with people from all around the world, even if it isn’t directly. Knowing that what we do impacts people from so many different cultures, some of which are much less unfortunate than myself, has made this a rewarding experience for me. I cannot wait to see what the next six weeks will have in store for me, as I continue my internship with Insta-Pro International.

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“Growing” a Business in Personal Gardening

Written by: Garrett Ley, Iowa State University Ag Business Sophomore

Nature Road Farm is truly a family business. In 2009, Randy and Linda Naeve merged their professional expertise together to begin their farming business. The farm combines Randy’s 30 years marketing experience in the food industry with Linda’s 30 years of experience and knowledge as an extension horticulture specialist at Iowa State University. With the assistance of family and friends, they have “grown” their small farm into a flourishing business that provides an educational opportunity for ISU student, Garrett Ley to learn more about the local food system through summer internships and expand his gardening skills on a commercial level.

Garrett working delivering a CSA basket to a local restaurant.

Garrett delivering a CSA basket to a local restaurant.

Nature Road Farm is a service and quality-oriented business where we are the “personal gardeners” for people interested in eating locally-grown produce that is fresher and tastier than anything that can be bought in the store.

The farm sells through a CSA program, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. The concept is simple – every week, beginning the first week in June and for the next 14 weeks, we will deliver a bag containing 10 to 20 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to your home or requested delivery location. It is like bringing the farmers’ market to your home every week. The selection each week depends on what is in season. We produce over 30 different vegetables on our farm. This is the farms fourth year of production and they have learned that in order to provide the best quality and variety of fruits and vegetables, they may include produce from other reputable growers in Central Iowa. These crops may include asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, and sweet corn.

Vegetable production

Vegetable production

Tomatoes growing at Nature View Farms

Tomatoes growing at Nature View Farms


Over the summer months, I will be involved with production, preparation, and sales for the farm. We deliver every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of each week around the Des Moines, Ames and Ankeny areas. We harvest in the mornings, prepare the product mid-day, and deliver early afternoon. Most of the items we deliver require an in depth cleansing process to free the product of any dirt or bugs hiding with the foliage of the crops. Crops that we grow include: ​asparagus, snap beans, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, sweet corn, eggplant, edamame, garlic, herbs, kale, lettuce, muskmelon, onions, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, spinach, butternut squash, tomatoes, watermelon, and zucchini.

A few vegetables included in a CSA bundle.

A few vegetables included in a CSA bundle.

The vegetables produced on our farm are grown “naturally,” using integrated pest management strategies. This means that we will utilize good cultural practices that produce healthy plants which tend to be more tolerant or resistant to insects and diseases. If pest problems require treatment, organic strategies will be the first options used to control the pests. Features of the CSA program include:

  • Between 10 and 20 pounds of seasonal fruits and vegetables delivered once a week for 14 weeks beginning the week of June 2, 2014.
  • An option to purchase additional fruits and vegetables, depending upon supply, if you need
  • More for entertaining, canning or freezing
  • Weekly updated news and recipes each week on the website describing what to expect in the next delivery, an update on the farm, and a recipe that features fruits or vegetables in the bag.

If you would like to participate in Nature Road Farm CSA, please call us at 515-231-4495 or e-mail (rknaeve@mchsi.com). Membership registrations begin February 1 of each year. Reservations are limited and will be honored on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

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Recreating Your Comfort Zone

Report from: Ryan Fisher, Iowa State Senior in Ag Business

Preface: Ryan is part of the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative’s Summer Internship Program. He is currently working on a research project in/on Malawi with Heartland Global. A few weeks ago he traveled to Malawi to learn more about their agricultural practices. Ryan has since returned and in the safe hands of the United States. Read about his exciting adventure of leaping out of his comfort zone to achieve what was asked of him. 


I arrived in Malawi under what I believed to be “less-than-ideal” circumstances: jet-lagged, culture-shocked, and luggage-less due to delayed and then missed flights along the journey. Things only became more interesting when my taxi driver from the airport to the hostel told me he needed money for fuel and had no cash so I would have to pay – with American dollars as I had not yet had a chance to change money – at the service station owner’s exchange rate. I ended up paying but grudgingly and only a few dollars, as I believe the fuel is the taxi driver’s problem, not mine. Unfortunately, and little to my knowledge, we were really low of fuel. We added a liter, but were still so low that the engine would not turn over. The driver’s solution of cranking on the starter until the battery died was ill-advised. I was stuck at a service station with a taxi driver who made me buy fuel and a new battery. Jet-lagged. Culture-shocked. Luggage-less. “Less-than-ideal” circumstances.

Before long, my driver found someone willing to give us a jump start, but after ten more minutes of cranking on the starter, no dice. I was subsequently informed that more fuel was needed and I had to buy it. Fast forward through the next few hours. By this time I’ve made it safely to my hostel, checked in, and discovered that “less-than-ideal” circumstances can actually devolve into “least-ideal” circumstances. The computer charger I brought had a 3 pronged plug and the converter I brought along only has room for 2 prongs. The power converter I needed (but did not know I needed when leaving the States) was in my lost luggage. My laptop battery was extremely low and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I needed to contact people from home who knew what was happening. Eventually, after informing my family and others that I had arrived safely, reading and responding to emails from Lloyd [my boss], and trying to get help with/locate my lost luggage, I was forced to shut down my last form of communication with anyone not included within the confines of my hostel. It’s accurate to say that my moral was kind of low at that point.

The first day and a half was rough. I was flustered. However, by the evening of the second day things were looking up. I had recovered my luggage (minus a stolen camera, air pump, air needles, and air gauge), made some Malawian friends, and organized a few meetings. Friday I enjoyed my first decent meal in a long while at a little restaurant not far from the hostel, and by Saturday, we were “cooking with gas” as they say. I made more friends with a group of 9 students and 1 professor from BYU who were staying at my hostel over the weekend (I actually saw them for the last time the morning before I left – a rockin awesome group), as well as a fellow Christian Malawian named Harrison who invited me to his church and then his house after church for a meal on the following day (Sunday). By now, day 16, I think it was safe to say I had warmed up to “The Warm Heart of Africa”.

In a nutshell, my “less-than-ideal” and “least-ideal” first experiences of Malawi was really just life happening as usual. In hindsight, these experiences have allowed me to genuinely enjoy the times when things are going well. I’ve often heard that the most meaningful growth and maturity takes place outside of our comfort zones. After the first 2 weeks of my internship, I can personally attest to the trustworthiness of this statement. It’s not always fun, but when we take the good with the bad it makes both the good and the bad seem better.

One of the first things I did before leaving home was to sit down with Lloyd and compose a contact list of people Malawi and rank those individuals by priority 1 through 3. When I arrived in MW, I composed a short introductory statement with background information of who I am and what my mission in MW is for the folks I am cold calling (re: everyone whose number I have), as well as a list of questions to ask during the interviews. For those times when I lacked a phone number or someone is not answering my calls, I composed a form email with background and introductory information for individuals whose email address I have. Once contact is established and meeting times agreed to, I sent a reminder email with meeting time and location, as well as my list of questions to provide folks with an sense of what I’m trying to learn while here. After the interviews and at the end of the day, I put all of my notes into a word document, uploaded it to a dropbox folder, sent a thank-you email to the folks I met with, add them on Linked In, and hit the sack. I’m began to find a rhythm there in Malawi.

I made contact with a number of people through phone calls and emails had actually met with 9 individuals and companies. What I found there in MW was honestly quite similar to what I found with a Tanzania project: you can do as much research from home as you want but it means nothing unless you verify and ground-truth with research in-country. I felt as if, after just the 9 meetings, I had gotten a better grasp on Malawi agriculture than the whole past semester’s worth of a project afforded me. For example, I learned that groundnuts – a crop previously not on the radar – have great potential for profitability, whereas paprika and red bird’s-eye chillies – two crops previously under consideration – seemingly have almost no potential for profits. Maize and soybeans can potentially be purchased for cheaper than they can be produced. Processed goods (such as soybeans) evidently have greater value in terms of export market than raw commodities sold in-country. The beef production industry is extremely uncompetitive at the moment. The poultry industry – though currently more profitable than the beef industry – is more competitive and more saturated. Finally, the results of the tripartite elections held in Malawi on May 20 will significantly impact the agricultural industry and, consequently, the outcome of my project.

Standing atop a pile of hand harvested seed maize, owned by a commercial farming operation in Namwera, Africa.

Standing atop a pile of hand harvested seed maize, owned by a commercial farming operation in Namwera, Africa.

Standing atop a pile of hand harvest seed maize, owned by a commercial farming operation in Namera, Malawi.

Standing atop a pile of hand harvest seed maize, owned by a commercial farming operation in Namera, Malawi.

I’ve received somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 new contacts through those I had met there already and felt like there will never be enough time to fully understand Malawi agriculture in the way I need to understand it before effectively completing my internship. I can say I have definitely grown more comfortable approaching people from out of the blue and do feel like I have a much broader grasp of Malawi agriculture. One advantage I identified in MW for the interviewing process is my youth. As a young person, I’m not really expected to understand Malawi agriculture (which, why would I anyway?), so I could play off of that expected/perceived ignorance and get away with asking very basic or “dumb” questions. I think being young also served to “disarm” the folks I was interviewing and made them more friendly toward me and my cause, because, after all, who could be against educating the youth?


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AgEI Summer Intern Update: A Whole New World

Written by Landon Kane & Bryce Irlbeck

Kane, Landon

Well we are officially in the middle of nowhere [Tanzania, Africa]. I would like to think that this is just somewhere that we have traveled for an internship, but there are actually people who live this lifestyle everyday. We are just here to experience their culture for a few short months. Kilombero Plantations Ltd. [large rice plantation] has helped boost their economy here in the valley as they employ around 280 village people. The average daily salary is about $2.00 a day in Africa, if you can find work. So they are really helping the general laborers make a better life here.

The farm pays their seasonal labor around minimum wage but the average salary can be around 100 to 1500 dollars per month.  This is a huge increase in rural Africa.  This plantation not only helps the people working there but has created an economy in the towns around it where workers have money to spend in local shops.  KPL has also provided  a hospital for the local people along with providing rice to the local school.  The town really needs this farm to survive and advance also the farm needs the people to be able opperate.   These people are really skilled with minimum education they are operating and fixing the same machines we use in the U.S.

Irlbeck, Bryce

We are here working on a 12,800 acre (5,000 hectare) rice farm, whith 3,200 hectares in production this year. We are about half way through harvest with 1,700 hectares left. This crop must be harvested by July 1st or it will be too ripe and not be able to be harvested. But they have been harvesting for over 40 days already, so lets hope we can help them get the rest of the crop out before the time runs out! At the moment they are running 5 combines: 2012 Claas Lexion 750, 2011 Claas Lexion 750, 2007 John Deere STS 9760, 2005 Claas Dominator 130, and a 1995 Claas Dominator Mega 204. These machines are constantly breaking down which is making it difficult to get the rice harvested. We have also been researching how to make their drying setup more efficient. We think we have found the problem. Currently they have 6 grain bins with large fans pumping hot air into them as a drying system. We have spoken with some engineers and think that the problem is the fans are not intended to be restricted of airflow and that is what the large hot air ducts are doing. Hopefully our discovery will make a difference for them.

Irlbeck, Bryce 2

As for our living situation, we are are pretty lucky. We are residing in the guest house that has 6 bedrooms which people have been in and out of as they are visiting the farm. We even have air conditioning as it is hot here even though it is their winter. As for food, we are not withering away, they have a cook for a three meals a day and we eat, chicken, beef, lamb, and pork. We feel kind of bad as we are eating so well and yet we see how some of the people on the road ways look like they have missed a few meals.

We are looking forward to what the rest of the summer has in store!

Until next time,

Landon and Bryce

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And the Excellent Teacher Award Goes To……

Here at the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative, we strive to give students endless opportunities to discover entrepreneurship and develop the skills needed to succeed in business development. We can only be sure that we are accomplishing this goal through positive student feedback, student business development, and testimonials. Recently, Bobby Degnan, Iowa State senior in Marketing, helped us understand the impact that our programs can make on students. Here is what Bobby had to say about our director, Kevin Kimle, and his Econ 334 – Entrepreneurship in Agriculture course:

“Kevin Kimle has been my favorite teacher at Iowa State University.  The material he taught us can be used in our everyday life and any career we choose down the line.  He really cares about his students and wants all of us to be the best we can be.  His real-life entrepreneurial experiences make for great class sessions and discussion.  He knows what it takes to be successful and he is open to sharing this knowledge with students throughout the semester.  I came away with a lot of information from Professor Kimle this semester and will use it for the rest of my life.  I truly appreciate all that he did for us and look to keep in touch with him for years down the line.”

Bobby sent this statement as a follow up to a “thank you” email he had sent to Kevin after he finished the course in May. We hope that many other students feel the same way about our entrepreneurship courses as Bobby does. We challenge students to step out of their comfort-zone, to go out on a limb and learn something that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to in their other classrooms. Giving students this opportunity to take ownership for their experiences has guided them in multiple different directions, including business ownership. During the course, students are challenged to write a business plan and many of them never fathom taking these ideas beyond the classroom. However, whether it be Kevin’s inspirational wisdom or an entrepreneurial spark that goes off in their mind, many of them seek to follow their own entrepreneurial dreams.

Business Success Stories from Econ 334:

ScoutPro – http://scoutpro.org/index.html

Agricultural Concepts – http://www.agricultureconcepts.com/

Course Description: The Econ 334 – Entrepreneurship in Agriculture course is an introduction to the process of entrepreneurship within the agricultural and food sectors. Emphasis on opportunity recognition and assessment, resource acquisition and feasibility analysis for both private and social enterprises. Students will develop a comprehensive feasibility study for a new business or non-profit organization.

Student Enrollment: Students interested in gaining real world experience through their course work are encouraged to enroll in Econ 334. For more information about the course, contact Kevin Kimle at kimle@iastate.edu or 515-294-1803.


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A Look into an AgEI Spring Internship: Lexi Marek with ScoutPro

Scouting fields are important to maintaining a successful farm. A problem occurs when records are lost or done improperly. ScoutPro eliminates this issue by combining technology and simple scouting practices. In May 2011, three students in the agriculture entrepreneurship class at Iowa State University developed ScoutPro. This scouting app eliminated papers and allowed crop scouts to record information on a tablet. With the motto Scout, Identify, Manage; scouts are able to record information and the records are then synched to the manager’s website. The app is now used in ten states and customer satisfaction remains as ScoutPro’s goal.

ScoutPro has teamed up with the AgEI Office and developed a spring and summer internship. I, Lexi Marek, a freshman in Public Service and Administration in Agriculture, will be spending my spring and summer working on increasing customer relations and marketing strategies. My first project was to schedule social media posts that will promote ScoutPro to customers as well as other companies and organizations. By attending the Iowa Farming and Power Show and the Iowa Agribusiness Showcase, I had the opportunity to talk to potential customers and learn more about the logistics of the ScoutPro app.


I am currently creating tutorial videos that explains to ScoutPro users how to use the app. A script was made with detailed instructions so all features were shown. By using free technology available on the Internet, the screen of the iPad was recorded and the video was edited. The next step is sharing the videos with the public. The website is going through updates and the videos will be posted there, as well as the ScoutPro YouTube channel. The rest of the projects that I will be working on this semester and throughout the summer include, creating field signs that will be used to promote the business and communicate with past customers to develop testimonials that will also endorse ScoutPro.

ScoutProapp map

The most important lesson I have learned thus far is to not become discouraged when the answers are not straightforward. When creating the videos, trial and error was key.

To learn more about ScoutPro checkout their website at http://www.scoutpro.org/


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Spring 2014 AgEI International Ag Business Development Course

Twelve Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences undergraduate students recently embarked on a 10-day international business development trip to Tanzania, Africa on March 13, 2014 with the Iowa State University’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative (AgEI).

Tanzania Group

The Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative’s International Development & Entrepreneurship in Agribusiness (IDEA) program places small teams of student consulting groups on identified international business development projects each spring semester.


Throughout the semester, the group of students worked to address the identified business development project for West Central Cooperative, the 2014 IDEA partnering company.

Tanzania Conservation

Established in 1933, West Central is a leading grain, agronomy, and value-added processing entity. With headquarters in Ralston, IA, this member-owned cooperative boasts an impressive national and international agricultural presence.


Recently, the cooperative acquired a soybean processing facility in Jefferson, IA that manufactures soy flakes from soybeans. This year’s IDEA project focused on developing a market assessment for soy flake potential in Eastern Africa.Tanzania Production Facility


While in country, students visited feed mill owners, food production company executives, and policy organizations to get a better understanding for the market they were assessing. Upon their return to the U.S., the students assessed the market further, utilizing the information learned through their visits.

Tanzania Cattle

Students participating in the 2014 IDEA program included: Justin Bahr, Agriculture Business, Iowa Falls, IA; Locky Catron, Agriculture Business, St. Joseph, MO; Hannah Christensen, Ag Business, Osage, IA; Adam Fichter, Ag Business, Shenandoah, IA; Ryan Fisher, Ag Business, Ellsworth, IA; Jacob Holschlag, Ag Business, New Hampton, IA; Austin Kessler, Ag Business, Durant, IA; Quinn Maass, Ag Business, Omaha, NE; Elizabeth Pleggenkuhle, Ag Business, Alpha, IA; Kassandra Ricklefs, Food Science, Webster City, IA; Marcie Stevenson, Ag Business, Wheatland, IA; and Natalie Witschorik, Ag Business, North Field, MN.

Tanzania Jeep

This IDEA project was led by Kevin Kimle, AgEI Director; Stacey Noe, AgEI Program Coordinator; Carly Cummings, AgEI Program Assistant; and Keri Jacobs, Iowa State Assistant Professor.


For more details on this course and the AgEI program, visit www.entrepreneurship.ag.iastate.edu.


Questions regarding the trip should be directed to Carly Cummings at carlyc@iastate.edu or 515-294-1802

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The 2014 AgEI Innovation Challenge

By Jennifer Elliott

Creativity, adaptability, and innovation are on some of the key skills the AgEI program tries to teach their students. At the initiative, we believe in teaching by doing. We have created multiple opportunities for students to experience real life situations in the form of internships, industry tours, competitions and many more experiences.

Tuesday, March 3rd, the AgEI Student Advisory Team hosted the 4th annual Innovation Challenge, sponsored by Vermeer, an agricultural and industrial equipment company. In years past, the goal was to have 12 teams compete, but this year surpassed, with a total of 15 teams signed up to compete. Once the teams were set they met as a whole with the student advisory team and Sara Hunter, a representative from Vermeer, to find out what agricultural product they would be adding value after its use.IMG_9958

Students were asked to repurpose plastic wrap, bailing twine or net wrap. The task seemed daunting to some of the students, but within a week all 15 teams were ready to present.

The teams presented to a panel of judges made up of Sara Hunter, ‎Market Assessment Manager, and Phil Chrisman, Segment Manager for Vermeer, Dr. David Acker, Associate Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Science, and Scott Thellman, owner and entrepreneur of Juniper Hills Farms and Student Advisory Team member. Each team presented their idea for 5 minutes and were then given 2 minutes to answer questions from the judges. The ideas from teams ranged from using the materials as insolation in equipment builds to using them as an artificial soil rigging in hydroponic plant growth systems.IMG_9977

After each team presented the judges left the room to deliberate, where they placed the teams from 1st-15th. When the judges returned, they announced first place being awarded to the team “Let ‘er Buck,” consisting of Jackson Kimle, Junior; Blake Lehmann, Junior; Jake Holschlag, Senior; and Ryan Fisher, Junior; all majoring in Agricultural Business.

Their innovative idea was a process, which they named platiCOAL. In this process they would collect the plastic wrap from farmers, compact it, then form small pellets to then be burned in coal plants as a cheaper alternative to burning conventional coal. After winning the contest the team walked away with a $400 scholarship from Vermeer.plastiCOAL

By the end of the night, all of the teams were placed and awarded an array of great prizes. The students had a great time and really seemed to enjoy getting to meet students from all across the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The AgEI program would like to thank Vermeer for their continued support, and appreciates their in depth contribution to the Innovation Challenge. If you’d like to learn more about Vermeer Manufacturing, check out their webisite link as follows, http://www2.vermeer.com/vermeer/NA/en/N/.


Below are a list of the placings, members of the teams, product names, prizes awarded and sponsors.


1st– Let ‘er Buck- Jake Holschlag, Jackson Kimle, Blake Lehmann, Ryan Fisher

$400 Scholarship- Vermeer Manufacturing

2nd– Livestock Innovation Alliance- Jenna Lansing, Kristen Liska, Bailey Petersen,

Tanner McCarter

$400 Scholarship- College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

3rd– Luzum’s Team- Andrew Luzum, Jennifer Elliott, Marcie Stevenson,

Alicia Humphrey

Iowa vs. Iowa State Football Tickets- Summit Farms

4th– Local Beach Bums- Hannah Phillips, Emily Klootwyk, Molly Wilson, Luke Hayes

5th– Worth Country Outlaws- Garrett Cole, Spencer Hulshizer, Klay Rustard,


Iowa State Football Suite Tickets- Summit Farms

6th– The Yuenglings- Zak Kerr, Austin Teeling, Alex Kerr, Chawn McGrath

$200 Scholarship- Juniper Hill Farms

7th– Freeman Farmers- Carl Frame, Dustin Johnson, Ashton Fehr, Tyler Deal

Dinner and Conversation with Roger and Connie Underwood

8th– Northwest Iowa’s Finest- Tory Mogler, Anthony Miller, Andrew Metzger,

Elizabeth Miller

Iowa State Men’s Basketball Tickets Vs. OK State- Quinn Maass

9th– Sterling’s Team- Sterling Schnepf, Trisha Collins, Cassandra Boyle

$50 in Pork Certificates

10th– Justin’s Team- Justin Bahr, Drew Dietz, Eric Henry, Nathan Hrubes

Iowa Corn Indy 300 Tickets and Hospitality Tent Passes- Iowa Corn Growers


11th– Kate’s Team- Kate Sennert, Nicole Patterson, Mwape Mwanakatwe,

Mary Kimani

2014 AgEI Industry Tour- Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative

12th– Next Generation Innovation- Brandon Hulme, Kevin Anderson,

Bryce Werimunt, Dan Rink

Dinner and Conversation with Rodney Whitney of Monsanto- Monsanto

13th– ICGA’s Finest- Shay Foulk, Quincy Lamp, Kathleen Ward, Kalli Weber

Rastetter Summer Party Invites- Summit Farms

14th– Jeremy’s Team- Jeremy Maass, Kellen Sunkten, Dustin Smith, Johnathan Triggs

Dinner and Conversation with Dave Rettig of Rembrant Foods- Rembrant Foods

15th– Team AGR- Austin Pappan, Ben Ashland

Rastatter Summer Party Invites- Summit Farms


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AgEI Fosters New Start-up

By Jennifer Elliott

The Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative started in 2008, and has fostered an Entrepreneurial minor, advised by program coordinator, Stacey Noe. A class required for the minor is Kevin Kimle’s Econ 334, Entrepreneurship in Agriculture. This course covers how to develop a business idea and plan, requiring the students to create a product/serviceto fill a void in the agriculture industry. Many students come up with fictitious products, but some have a mind set for taking their concept past the classroom. One of those students was Mr. Collin Hurd.

Colin Hurd

Hurd graduated from Iowa State University in May of 2013 with a degree in Agricultural Studies. After graduation, he pursued his dream of starting his business, Track Till. Collin’s business concept focused on reducing soil compaction caused by large planters. In order to do this, developed a set of 12” vertical tines, placed behind the tires of the tractor during planting. Hurd partnered with Kyle Meyer to produce the first prototype of Track Till. The first attempt was unsuccessful, but with the will to succeed, they developed a second prototype that worked like a charm. With assistance from ISU Hurd conducted his first product testing last spring as a pilot study on three separate plots. The tests proved that Track Till could increase yields by about eight bushels per acre, which would allow Track Till to pay for itself in the first year if run across approximately 2,000 acres.

Track Till

Now that Hurd has solidified the potential for Track Till, he has coined his company name as Agriculture Concept in addition to Track Till, Hurd has ventured into working with a USM Wear Technologies on their Caden Edge tillage sweeps to diversity his company portfolio. These sweeps are applied to planter equipment with a tungsten carbide weld blending the metals together, allowing the sweeps to last 3x as long compared to normal welding practices and reducing wear of sweeps up to an inch. Agriculture Concepts will act as a dealer for the USM Wear technology and is working to create an extended target market with the help of Iowa State student, Alec Paup.

Agriculture Concepts

Alec is a junior majoring in Agricultural Studies with a minor in Agronomy, a Creston, IA native. He was given the opportunity to work with Agriculture Concepts, as an Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity brother to Collin Hurd. Paup said, “I was a freshman in the house when Colin was a junior, just in the developing stages of Track Till. A few years later I contacted him, just asking about the progress of his business and after a brief conversation asked if he would be looking for intern this coming year. He said he had thought about it, and because of his prior experience with the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative’s Semester Inc. internship program, he decided we should go ahead and work through the AgEI on the program to develop a formal internship.”

Alec Paup

            Paup is now working in the AgEI office in the new intern suites located just above the Harl Commons in Curtiss Hall. His responsibility during the spring semester is to increase their sales territory size from the state of Iowa, to states such as Minnesota, Missouri, South and North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and even Florida. He is also in charge of developing marketing plans for of the products, utilizing the Iowa State National Agrimarketing Team Advisors, Stacey Noe and Carly Cummings.

            So far Alec has enjoyed his time here at the AgEI office and working for Mr. Hurd. He says, “My relationship with Collin is very laid back and easy going, I can ask any sort of question without hesitation.”  He also mentioned,  “I enjoy working for a start up business because there is no set path. It’s exciting and gives me an opportunity to do some exploring to answer my own questions.” Paup will be continuing his internship with Agriculture Concepts this summer, where his focus will be focused on direct customer contact.

            If you are a student or business looking for more information about the AgEI Semester Inc. Program, please contact Stacey Noe at snoe@iastate.edu or 515-294-4945.

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