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ISU aids young entrepreneurs

A student business incubator program, part of Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is broadening the understanding of entrepreneurship and business development among its students.

The college’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative was founded in 2005. As the only student-focused agricultural entrepreneurship program in the nation, the initiative has provided a portfolio of educational experiences to help develop students’ entrepreneurial and business development knowledge.

The student business incubator is part of the initiative’s portfolio, along with fostering interactions with successful agricultural entrepreneurs, campus competitions and key experiential learning opportunities through internships. Three student teams are receiving mentoring as they “incubate” their business concepts. In addition, two student businesses have “graduated” from the program, including Michael Koenig, founder of a company called ScoutPro Inc.

When Koenig initially walked into ISU’s ag entrepreneurship course in the fall of 2010, starting a for-profit business was the farthest thing from his mind. Koenig, a senior in ag education, took the required course for his major and simply hoped to enjoy it. As he got deeper into the course, Koenig’s career plan began to change.

Kevin Kimle, the Rastetter chairman of Agricultural Entrepreneurship and director of the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative, challenged his students to develop multiple business concepts throughout the first part of the semester.

“The challenge for students is to remove themselves from their comfort zone and consider how to do something different within the industry,” says Kimle. “Students end up pulling ideas from their past experiences, looking for opportunities that may exist.”

That is exactly what happened for Koenig. Serving as a crop scout intern for two summers, he understood how difficult correctly identifying a crop pest could be. Along with the limited amount of training scouts receive and the cumbersome resource guides they are required to carry, Koenig identified an opportunity to make the process easier and more accurate.

Koenig thought the business concept — developing crop scouting apps for mobile devices — showed potential, but making the decision to take the next step and develop an actual business took a lot of consideration.

“Both my wife and I agreed that I should pursue the business,” he says. “Not only did I feel like we had actually identified a need in the industry, but this was something that could really make a difference in crop production management decisions. The support and encouragement I received from the Ag Entrepreneurship Initiative was so overwhelming that I was sure I was making the right decision.”

ScoutPro apps available

In March of this year, ScoutPro officially launched sales of its first apps, ScoutPro Soybean and ScoutPro Corn at the iTunes store, with consultant versions made available in April. The ScoutPro apps are available for use on the iPad 2 and iPhone. The company has plans to launch Android versions this spring.

“Farmers don’t need another task to slow them down, and ScoutPro will provide farmers with a more organized scouting record that requires less of their time. Additionally, we plan to create new apps and expand to other crops through the fall,” says Koenig. “I’m not only dreaming big things for this company, but also praying for big things for this company. I’m looking forward to what’s in store for the future.”

For more details, visit www.scoutpro.org or contact Koenig at m.koenig@
scoutpro.org
or 515-979-8540.

Noe is program coordinator for the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative.

Scoutpro.tif

CROP SCOUT APPS: Iowa State University students Stuart McCulloh, Holden Nyhus and Michael Koenig are partners in a new business offering a crop scouting software applications that can help farmers and crop scouts identify weeds and pests.

This article published in the July, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.