Alex Irlbeck, grad student in agricultural engineering, knew what it looked like to run a successful business from a young age. The oldest of four children, Irlbeck grew up on the cow/calf and row crop family farm near Templeton, Iowa. Irlbeck's father ran the welding shop in town, allowing him to see what it looked like to run a successful business while working side-by-side with his dad on both the farm and in the weld shop.
As a huge Cyclone fan, Iowa State was the only college Irlbeck considered. "Growing up on the family farm and welding shop made me really want to work with ag equipment, so ISU was a great fit. They also happen to have one of the best ag engineering programs in the country, making my college decision really easy," he explains. As an undergrad, Irlbeck majored in agricultural engineering with a minor in entrepreneurial studies. He was also heavily involved in the American Society of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineers (ASABE), participating in community service events, club trips and a variety of other meetings.
Irlbeck was first introduced to Start Something College of Agriculture and LifeSciences (CALS) this past summer as a participant in the CYstarters program. His mentor for the program, Kevin Kimle, introduced him to the resources that Start Something CALS offers. This semester, Irlbeck is a member of the Student Incubator, where he is working on his business CattleTEC. The business is aimed at helping farmers improve the record keeping process for small cow/calf operations. "We do this through an online platform which focuses on the financials and business side of the operation so that farmers can focus on what really matters to them, their cattle," elaborates Irlbeck.
The business idea stemmed from Irlbeck's passion to give the family farm a competitive advantage. "I noticed a real problem with how we made decisions on our farm with little data to back it up," he relates. With the help of teachers and advisors at Iowa State (Jim Fay, Judi Eyles , and Diana Wright), Irlbeck was able to take his idea more seriously and launch it into an actual business.
CattleTEC is currently in the developmental stage of their base platform which they plan to test in January. "A major piece of what we are doing is also automating the record keeping process by adding technology on to the farm to track resource usage. This tracks when the producer feeds different commodities to their animals and then displays usage rates, leftover inventory, and the financial impact of these decisions for the farmer to see without having to write it down himself," he explains.
Irlbeck previously worked as an engineering intern for Kuhn North America, Almaco, and AGCO. He also worked for Dr. Matthew Darr at Iowa State as a contractor for John Deere sprayer development. After graduation, he will continue to work as a full-time engineer on Dr. Darr's team here at Iowa State, focusing on advanced R&D projects for John Deere. He has no plans to stop working on CattleTEC either. "My Iowa State job allows me to stay tapped into the great network of entrepreneurs and support system I have here in Ames," Irlbeck remarks.
We wish him the best of luck as he continues to work on CatteTEC and enters into his new role at Iowa State!