WAPELLO COUNTY LEVERAGING ADVANCEMENT A COUNTY OF LASER AND ELECTRO-OPTICS TECHNOLOGY
he burgeoning use of technology in agriculture makes sense in the context of an ever-increasing demand for crops, and the expense of environmental controls. As the leading producer of soybeans, corn, pork and eggs in the United States, Iowa’s rich land is fertile ground to plant the seeds of new Ag-Photonics technologies. This is precisely what brought husband and wife team Dr. Dominic Murphy and Clare Neeve Murphy, directors of IAM AGTECH, and IAM SENSETECH to Southeast Iowa. Occupants of the Regional Entrepreneur Center (REC), housed at Indian Hills Community College, these ag-tech pioneers capitalize on the rural environment, and utilize graduates of IHCC’s highly successful Laser and Electro-Optics Technology program. Seed money was provided largely from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation and a partnership with IHCC. This funding, in conjunction with the REDI loan program - an outgrowth of the Regional Planning Commission’s economic development efforts - made coming to Wapello County attractive for these technologists from Ireland. Supported by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) via its Commercialization Fund, IAM AGTECH has been chosen as one of only eight Iowa companies (and one of the initial four) by the IEDA and VentureNet to participate in a pilot program with the Larta Institute.
Unlike other industries, the graduates of the Laser and Electro-Optics Technology program at IHCC have always had to leave the area to find work in their field. IAM AGTECH now gives students the opportunity to stay in the area. Additionally, a certified apprenticeship program allows students attending IHCC to earn money in their field, and credits toward a professional standing. The Murphy’s look to expand from four full-time employees, and two interns, to 20 employees within the next five years.
LAND OF PLENTY
Benefits to the location are the “access to a trained, skilled workforce from the IHCC graduates,” and the “size of the market opportunity,” says Dr. Dominic Murphy. “We are delighted to have been invited here and to grow businesses in Iowa.” Clare Murphy goes on to say that the Iowa people “are connected to the soil, even if people don’t farm here, they have a farm connection, a connection to the land.” The cost of living in the Midwest is also a large factor. Clare Murphy says, “the quality of life is wonderful. Beautiful scenery, lakes, parks, reduced cost of travel, and you get the four seasons.”
IAM AGTECH customizes new optical measurement instruments to deliver in-line and field-portable Broad Spectrum Analysis of fats, oils, dairy, and soil. In agriculture the pressure is on to constantly maximize yield while managing costs. A feed company could use the technology to control the quality of shipments, instead of relying on lab testing of small samples that inevitably risk product returns. Beyond just the use of these sensor systems for agriculture purposes is IAM SENSETECH. A niche application in a sea of endless start-ups, IAM SENSETECH customizes optical measurement instruments for medical, structural (think bridges and pipelines), manufacturing, military and aviation (think fuselage, wing, and turbine) assessment. These two technology companies are a powerhouse of potential, serving as a beacon for tech workers in Southeast Iowa.
OTTUMWA, IA 52501