By Brent Willett, executive director, Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor
Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor is where public and private partners work together, through advances in biotechnology, to tackle issues including a growing population, as well as the need for increased agricultural production and energy independence. With the Corridor’s location at the crossroads of the country’s major interstates, I-80 and I-35, and its position on a quarter of the Earth’s richest topsoil, Iowa is ideally situated to continue to grow the agbioscience industry and remain one of the top producers of corn, soybeans, pork and eggs globally.
Iowa has nine times the national average of people working in the agricultural and feedstock chemicals sectors, with many of them working at major global companies — John Deere, Kemin Industries, DuPont Pioneer and Vermeer Corp., to name a few. Since 2006, the State of Iowa has provided more than $260M in workforce training and $85M in direct financial assistance to more than 200 bioscience projects.
Since April 2014, key developments in the Cultivation Corridor have led to more than 1.9 billion in activity. A few of these key developments include:
- A $5 million expansion of Helena Industries in Des Moines
- A 400-acre expansion for a hub facility in the ISU Research Park in Ames (5,000 new jobs by 2020 expected)
- A $7.5 million expansion of Advanced Analytical Technologies in Ankeny
- World-wide headquarters expansion at Kemin Industries (official grand opening of the headquarters expected in August 2017)
(Information from Iowa Area Development Group, Kemin Industries website)
The Corridor’s business-friendly environment will remain strong as it rises to meet the challenge of feeding more than 9 billion by 2050. While projections on increasing population and decreasing acres of farmland represent a critical challenge for the industry, the Cultural Corridor is uniquely qualified for innovation in this arena. Not only is the location of the Cultural Corridor important, but its placement among prospective highly educated employees is extremely appealing to the world-class companies residing here. Because of their proximity within the Cultivation Corridor, Iowa State University (ISU), Des Moines Area Community College, Iowa Valley Community College, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Ames Economic Development Commission funnel highly specialized talent from these institutions to ensure growth of the agbioscience companies within the Corridor.
Along with feeding highly educated students to top agricultural companies, the Corridor is also interested in assisting startup businesses. Recently, in December 2016, an Ames, Iowa-based startup company, KinoSol, made up of students from ISU, wrapped up tests on a prototype for a lightweight, solar-powered dehydrator. This portable device could potentially increase the shelf life of produce and reduce food waste worldwide by assisting small-scale farmers in developing countries. KinoSol is just one example of the work being done by students living in the Cultivation Corridor, students with the work ethic and ability to change the agbioscience industry in the future, majorly impacting the Corridor and the global companies based here.
Startups will continue to be a focus for the agbioscience industry within the region for the foreseeable future. The Cultivation Corridor, along the The Partnership, has launched a mentor-led event focused on AgTech innovation. Technology advancements in agriculture are fairly new, but over the past few years, startups focused on advancements in bioenergy, irrigation, etc. continue to gain momentum. The Iowa AgriTech Accelerator hopes to capitalize on the development of these efforts through investors and mentors hailing from the AgTech industry. This year’s program runs from July 10 through October 20.
Read at dsmpartnership.com.