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WEDC helping farm-related tech startups in Wisconsin

July 12, 2022
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Farm Technology Days highlight industry growth and innovation

MADISON, WI. JULY 12, 2022 – The 2022 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days will run from July 12-14 in Clark County, highlighting Wisconsin companies in the farm technology industry. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has helped many such businesses emerge over the years with its Qualified New Business Venture (QNBV) program.

QNBV is intended to encourage equity investment in technology-based businesses, including farming-related ones, in the state of Wisconsin. By giving eligible angel and venture fund investors a Wisconsin income tax credit equal to 25 percent of the value of their investments, the program helps tech-based startups develop products, enter markets and create high-quality jobs as they emerge in their industries.

“Farming is such an integral part of our state and regional economy, so helping industry-changing products in their early stages is a key mission of ours,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC, the state’s leading economic development organization. “WEDC is proud to have supported so many companies in this field, and we can’t wait to see them continue to grow and thrive.”

Agrograph, Inc., for example, uses satellite imagery to observe farms and their crop-growing performance. Calling itself “The Credit Score of Agriculture™,” Agrograph helps educate banks and financial institutions on what sized loans, if any, to give farmers. Agrograph has grown quickly since Mutlu Ozdogan and James O’Brien founded it in 2012, and it now provides its services in nearly every state in the U.S. while doing about a third of its business outside North America.

“It’s definitely a win-win,” O’Brien said of the QNBV program. “It allows investors to have the tax advantages of making an investment, and it benefits us because investors are putting those dollars into our company.”

Isomark LLC, another QNBV business, has developed a hardware-enabling software that identifies pre-symptomatic infections in an animal’s breath. Farmers can detect an infection in just 30 seconds with this software, enabling them to intervene before a potentially catastrophic spread. Isomark’s product will reduce precautionary, often unnecessary antibiotic use and allow consumers to better know what’s in the meat and dairy they’re purchasing.

Having successfully completed four pilot programs and sold two units in 2022, Isomark, headquartered in Fitchburg, WI, is gaining prominence in the production animal industry.

“The QNBV program is a great program for startups and companies pursuing funds because it incentivizes the investor to make that investment,” said Jack Heinemann, president of Isomark LLC. “It’s helped us a lot with Wisconsin investors.”

Also helping predict disease outbreaks — with crops in this case — is Madison-based Field Prophet Incorporated. Field Prophet analyzes weather patterns and informs farmers when environmental conditions are conducive to infection-causing pathogens among corn and soybean crops. The app saves farmers money by addressing at-risk crops and reducing uninformed chemical use. One Wisconsin farmer said Field Prophet saved him $10,000 in a single growing season. Unlike most farming apps, Field Prophet can be used anonymously and doesn’t collect user data, offering farmers privacy and security.

Founded in 2020, Field Prophet has yet to receive investors via the QNBV program, but co-founder and CTO Roger Schmidt still sees the benefits of the program.

“The thing we like about being a qualified business is it lends credibility to our business when we have investors looking at us,” Schmidt said. “We renewed our qualification a few months ago for that reason. We want to still have the credits available, but we also want that credibility where the state believes in us. That’s critical for a young business.”

WEDC will continue working closely with agricultural startups as they innovate new software and products that revolutionize the farming industry in Wisconsin and beyond.

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