Scholarship helps students build a business


Photo: Megan Wolff/Iowa State Daily

Colin Hurd, senior in agricultural studies, was recently awarded the Murray Wise Scholarship.

Carter Collins

With hopes of creating a solution to a common farming problem, Colin Hurd has found new initiative: a $10,000 scholarship.

Winner of the 2012 Murray Wise Associates Agriculture Entre-preneurship Scholarship, Hurd plans to use the scholarship as capital to build his business idea, called “TrackTill.” The $10,000 is awarded to one student per year, through the Iowa State Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative Program, who has a business idea that has the potential to be successful in the agricultural market. 

“America needs to be invented to stay competitive,” said Hurd, senior in agricultural studies and the 2012 Murray Wise Associates Agriculture Entrepreneurship Scholarship Winner. “We have to think creatively to solve a real life problem.”

TrackTill is aimed at solving a complicated issue that every farmer runs across in the field: soil compaction. Hurd said soil compaction is a growing issue. As farming equipment increases in size, the weight of the farming equipment also increases, which means more soil compaction. More soil compaction means there is less space in the soil for water and air and thus makes it harder for the crop seeds to emerge through the soil.

Hurd created an attachment to a planter that would reduce this compaction and thus increase the overall yield in the fields. Due to proprietary reasons in waiting for a patent for his prototype, Hurd would not discuss too many details of his invention to protect his business idea. Hurd did say, however, that much more work is needed for him to receive this patent.

Through the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative Program, Hurd was able to network with an agricultural engineer who graduated from Iowa State. Hurd and his collaborator will receive their patent once they are able to take the idea, graphically depict the product and create a working prototype. They hope to have a working prototype by spring.

Once Hurd has a patent, he will still have to worry about the business end of entrepreneurship.

“To get to a point where it can create a profit has been calculated to be at $450,000,” Hurd said.

Hurd hopes to grow the business and leave an impact on farming, but understand the challenges ahead if he owns his own company.

“It’s next to impossible to compete with the three giants,” Hurd said, referring to the three major farming equipment companies of John Deere, Case-I-H and AGCO. “The business should be profitable on his own, or another route is being bought out.”

Hurd credits many people he has crossed paths with over the years while here at Iowa State and considers many of them mentors. Hurd also credits one class he took at Iowa State, calling it the best class he has taken. “Entrepreneurship in Agriculture,” or Economics 334, taught by Kevin Kimle, is where Hurd came up with the idea of TrackTill.

Stacey Noe, program coordinator of the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative Program, regarded Hurd and his work highly.

“[Hurd] is a really impressive student,” Noe said. “Academically, he is very successful and is very driven, which is what we look for in this scholarship.”

Hurd was very involved in the initiative program’s incubator program, which fosters students business ideas, networks them with professionals and exposes them to agricultural entrepreneurship and business development. The scholarship is in its second year at Iowa State and is endowed by Murray Wise Associates, a company in farming real estate.

Murray is an alumnus of Iowa State who wanted to make a large impact on students. Noe said the scholarship allows students to move forward with their business idea without being stuck because of the lack of funds to build a company.

The previous winner of the scholarship set high expectations for Hurd to fill in terms of financial success.

“Last year’s winner Michael Koenig’s business, ScoutPro, is expected to make $100,000 dollars in sales in next year,” Noe said.

Hurd is driven to fill his predecessor’s shoes: “If you have a business idea, you can pursue it. You just have to have the commitment, passion, and vision to do so.”