For the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator, 2020 was a program success, executive director Nadilia Gomez said this week. 

In January, the accelerator received “unprecedented numbers” of applications for the 2020 cohort. At the onset of a global pandemic in the spring, IATA transferred the entire program virtually for the four participating startups. 

“We were able to do it with everyone’s wellness and health in mind. These are all tremendous successes for 2020,” Gomez said. 

Yet late last week the IATA announced plans to dissolve the 100-day accelerator program, after the governing board determined the program had completed the work set out in its 2016 formation by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and Cultivation Corridor. 

[Read more: Iowa AgriTech Accelerator announces dissolution]

“We looked at the competitive landscape, we looked at the capability assessment that had flourished over the last five years in Iowa, and we realized that we had accomplished the goal,” Gomez said. “There were now numerous entrepreneurial endeavors in place, there are larger numbers of funding sources available for startups, and more importantly, the companies that had initiated this engagement back with the first cohort in 2017 had developed their own internal structures and teams, and dedicated initiatives to reach out to startups.”

Since 2017, the IATA developed a mentor network of up to 139 individuals through the years, variously as one-to-one mentors, panelists or in other roles — Gomez, who was named executive director in 2019, first joined as an early mentor in the IATA network. Those supporters will continue to be active in the entrepreneurship community, she said. 

“One of the key components of our program was to create mentorship opportunities and connections within industry leaders,” Gomez said. “Those relationships, I’m sure, will continue for the rest of the lifetime of those entrepreneurs — even entrepreneurs that have [decided] an entrepreneurial journey is no longer the path ahead for them.” 

The funding board managing current investments in IATA alumni will continue to support those startups, Gomez said. No new investments will be made by the fund in outside startups. The fund has eight lead investors: DuPont Pioneer/Corteva, Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance, Grinnell Mutual, John Deere, Kent Corp., Onset, People’s Co. and Sukup Manufacturing.  

Agtech entrepreneurs have a depth of opportunity for growth working closely with farmers and sustainable initiatives, Gomez said. 

Twelve of the 18 startups that completed the IATA since 2017 are still operating in 2021; founders developed products affecting a broad scope of agricultural industries, including automation, data analytics, livestock and crop production. 

“The options that are still emerging in the space of sustainability are incredibly exciting,” Gomez said. “It’s going to be very interesting to see what unfolds next. I still feel deeply connected to the agricultural technology/entrepreneurial space, and in particular to Iowa. It offers tremendous potential.

“I don’t have a definitive plan ahead yet, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to explore,” she added. “2020, with its unique set of challenges, demonstrated that entrepreneurial thinking allows us to navigate that uncertainty. What seems like the closing of the IATA should lead eventually to the growth and opportunities in the Iowa agtech ecosystem, and I’m eagerly awaiting to see how that’s going to evolve.”