Ascension Ag – Agricultural Biosecurity Startup
It was mid-2019, and Jeb Gent (’13 agricultural and life sciences education) was ready. “I’ve always had in mind that at some point in my career I would start my own business,” commented Gent. “My wife and I have been saving money to help make that transition, so we parted ways with my job and hit the ground running.”
Gent has worked in positions serving the pork industry, and had ideas on products to enhance biosecurity. “The corona virus pandemic makes it really clear how devastating disease can be to people and their livelihoods,” said Gent. “The pork industry is no different and has dealt with a number of devastating viruses already, whether PEDv & PRRSv in the U.S. or African Swine Fever more recently in China.”
Two weeks after leaving his job, Gent realized what he needed most. A partner. “I was quickly daunted with starting a business by myself,” said Gent.
Enter William Underwood (’13 forestry). “William and I have been friends forever and for almost as long have dreamed about starting businesses,” commented Gent. “William was living in Kansas City working as a management consultant in the precision ag industry, so I called him with the idea of partnering in a startup business.”
After talking through the business plan and potential, Underwood was in. “Our personalities and skill sets are complimentary,” commented Underwood. “And Jeb’s a great salesman.”
Underwood moved back to Ames and Ascension Ag was born. “We started out pretty lean,” said Gent. “But by September 2019 we had our first product concept, an anti-viral powder-based surface treatment to protect swine and livestock facilities from the spread of virus.”
Ascension’s vision is to solve biosecurity challenges with new innovative products that are easy to use, safe for people and solve an existing problem. Their first product, ChloraSorb, does just that: easy to use, safe, and solves the problem of pathogen spread when liquid disinfectants cannot be used.
Fast forward to Spring 2020, and that product was successful in trials and is producing revenue for Ascension Ag. The business’ headquarters is in a 3,200 square foot facility on the outskirts of Nevada, Iowa.
“We’re still a two-person business,” said Underwood. “I manage manufacturing and operations and Jeb manages product development and sales. It’s a good split of responsibilities.”
What’s next? “We are continuing to build upon existing sales of our first product, ChloraSorb,” commented Gent. “And we aim to have one or two more products by late this year.”
When reminded of his startup business plan from ECON 334/Entrepreneurship in Agriculture in 2012 that won him a $500 Hermanson Family Ag Entrepreneurship Award, a snail farm, Gent grimaces. “Ascension Ag is a much better idea.”
And Ascension Ag is the most recent addition to the Start Something College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Wall of Fame.