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Insights: Eric Peterson of Summit Agricultural Group

Interviewed by Kevin Kimle | Excerpts

Kimle: Summit Agricultural Group has a large crop and a livestock operation, but also manages significant investment funds.  How do these parts of the business compliment one another? Peterson: They fit together really well. You see a lot of ag investment funds or a lot of farmland investment funds and their teams don't necessarily have much or any agricultural expertise.  But we're here living it every day, seeing what works, what doesn't work. That gives us kind of a great advantage when we're evaluating agricultural investments.

Kimle: Summit was the first investor in the Ag Startup Engine. Can you explain why you found the whole idea of an investment platform in central Iowa interesting and important? Peterson: Startup companies need a pathway and advice to know how to position themselves to become viable for investors. There had been many companies that we looked at before the Ag Startup Engine that raised money from a few local investors, but they didn't have the structure in place to be able to win larger investors. Unfortunately a lot of companies with very promising technology failed. And so what we wanted to do was put together a group of ag entrepreneurs that would vet ideas, and create a broader community of investors for ag entrepreneurs in Iowa. Because Iowa really is where ag tech businesses belong. Iowa needs to own ag tech and Iowa State University should be the center of it. You can leverage Iowa State's resources and expertise and professors with the broader ag community and really have something pretty special. Kimle: What do you think are some of the most compelling opportunities in agricultural technology, and why? Peterson:  I think there are interesting opportunities involving data. I think one of the most neglected parts of ag tech development is livestock production. I see a lot of ag tech startups targeting crops, but few interesting starups aside from Performance Livestock Analytics targeting livestock. Kimle:  What do you think are some of the challenges or obstacles facing agricultural technology? Peterson: The biggest challenge facing many ag tech startups now, arises from a lack of agricultural grounding. The entrepreneurs may have a great story, but their product or service doesn't practically work. And so if there are a lot of those companies that fail, and that may give ag tech a bad name and funding in the future might be a problem.


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