Skip to main content

About Start Something College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

The Start Something College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) program, formerly known as the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative (AgEI), was founded in 2005 and is one of the foremost programs for developing agricultural entrepreneurs in the world.

Start Something CALS builds on a rich history of entrepreneurship at Iowa State University. For example, twenty percent of those graduating from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University between 1982 and 2006 have started at least one business, resulting in the creation of almost 57,000 jobs (Jolly, Yu, Orazem, and Kimle 2010). Agricultural entrepreneurs from Iowa State University have been responsible for innovation, invention, and business creation in important sectors of agriculture and the food industry ranging from seed, agricultural equipment, GPS, agricultural chemicals, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and food products.

Start Something’s activities have a foundation in the land-grant university mission of education, thought leadership, and outreach. By creating a broad understanding of entrepreneurship among faculty and students within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University and its supporting partners, undergraduate programs are designed to supply students with exposure and experience with entrepreneurship, both in and outside the classroom. A diverse portfolio of educational experiences are complemented by programs in business incubation, public-private partnerships, technology commercialization, and industry interaction.

Each academic year, the Start Something CALS program:

  • Touches 1,200 undergraduate students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with at least one program. This includes classes, out-of-classroom activities, and internships.

  • Takes 200 students through the capstone course Entrepreneurship in Agriculture (ECON 334), with students developing business plans presented at semester’s end to investor and entrepreneur panelists.

  • Places 30 to 40 interns with entrepreneurial agricultural businesses working on various business development and innovation projects. Students are placed in both domestic and international locations.

  • Brings to campus more than 150 entrepreneurs, investors, and agribusiness professionals as classroom speakers, student presentation panelists, and industry, market, and technology mentors and experts.

  • Supports 15 to 25 student entrepreneurs as part of the Start Something CALS Student Incubator. Notable alumni of the Student Incubator program include: Scout Pro, Agriculture Concepts, and Farmland Finder.

  • Partners with entrepreneurial businesses for domestic and international travel course projects. Students act as consulting team for participating businesses.

  • Creates outreach opportunities such as the Entrepreneurial Agribusiness Executive Conference and the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Unconference.

  • Helps foster mentoring and investment platforms for the agricultural entrepreneurship ecosystem such as the Ag Startup Engine, which was founded in 2016 and has invested in nine businesses (as of March 2019).

Start Something CALS has served as a model for other programs, having assisted in creation of new programs in other states as well as Greece and Tanzania.