By Lindsey Murray | ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
CYstarters Spotlight: A 15-part series highlighting student entrepreneurs pursuing their business ventures as part of the CYstarters 2023 summer cohort. Through this program, students have the unique opportunity to prioritize the development of their own startup or business idea. Each individual receives $6,500 and access to resources such as mentorship, networking opportunities, and educational sessions on entrepreneurship and business startup.
Dakota Belling and Eugene Meyer met for the first time on September 1, 2022. Today (only nine months after their first meeting), the highly ambitious duo are business partners and co-founders of Bovi-Jet, an automated medicinal spraying system for cattle.
In the fall of 2022, Meyer attempted to remain inconspicuous as he sat at the very back of the classroom on the first day of his entrepreneurial product design course. Belling, a civil engineering major from Des Moines, Iowa, had the same idea. Not knowing anyone in the class, he grabbed the open seat next to Meyer, an Industrial Engineering major from Mount Prospect, Illinois. Professor Dave Sly began pairing students together with the task of developing a product and business plan that they would pitch as a team by the end of the semester. As luck would have it, Belling and Meyer were paired together.
As they brainstormed, Professor Sly mentioned a connection he’d made with Merck Animal Health regarding several projects for which they were needing assistance. The project that caught the attention of Belling and Meyer involved automating the process of applying chemicals to cattle. Belling, having a farming background, knew immediately that this was an idea he didn’t want to pass up, saying, “Farming automation is huge right now – it’s a rapidly-changing industry, so I knew it was going to be a big deal if we could just get our foot in the door.”
The team went to work developing a product that would eliminate the need for manually spraying cattle with necessary pharmaceuticals. They met weekly with Merck as they developed a product design. By October, they had a mock-up of their product and were ready to pitch their idea. They participated in several pitch contests at Iowa State University, where they received more than just great feedback and interest in their product. Bovi-Jet took home first place in the Fall Startup Pitch Competition within the College of Engineering, and first place in the College-by-College Pitch Off. Belling and Meyer received a total of $5,750 in winnings to contribute to their start-up costs.
On January 31, 2022, Belling and Meyer officially launched their company. Originally called Belling & Meyer, LLC, they workshopped the name and now are known as Bovi-Jet. Bovi-Jet manufactures automated medicinal spraying systems for cattle producers to make their farming practices more efficient. They’ve developed a system that cattle walk through daily, similar to a cattle alleyway, that will automatically spray cattle with antibiotics. The amount sprayed will be based on weight and a series of other metrics.
Belling and Meyer felt that the obvious next step for their business was to apply for the CYstarters program, and after a competitive application process, they were selected for the 2023 cohort. They knew that participating in the program would provide them the support and resources they needed to develop a full-scale prototype and continue building their business.
With guidance from the CYstarters program staff and mentors, Belling and Meyer have been able to make several significant decisions for the future of Bovi-Jet. After extensive customer discovery, they’ve been able to define their market. They will target a larger audience of farmers that have smaller herds of cattle. They plan to develop a product that is cost-effective to produce so that they can offer it to farmers at a lower price. The next step is to become the sole manufacturer of the product and to obtain a patent for the design and the application system. They plan to sell the product themselves by connecting directly with local farmers across the United States.
The CYstarters program has connected the Bovi-Jet team with local farmers, parts manufacturers, and other valuable resources. Additionally, Belling and Meyer have learned new methods of marketing and advertising that will be helpful when determining how to reach their targeted customer. For the Bovi-Jet team, one of the biggest benefits of participating in the CYstarters program has been the financial assistance. “The funding has been really nice,” said Belling. “It’s enough that we’ve been able to get a few smaller-scale items to build a quality prototype.”
For Belling and Meyer, this project has a lot of moving parts and many unknown factors still to be discussed. Currently, they are in contact with manufacturers to produce the pump, nozzle, and plumbing system the machine requires. The next step in the development of their product is finalizing a full-scale prototype. They are in the final stages of production and plan to have the machine ready to test as early as this fall.
The path for Belling and Meyer has not been linear, and Meyer offered a word of encouragement for fellow student entrepreneurs facing similar situations, “Don’t be afraid to pivot. CYstarters is awesome because even if one idea doesn’t work out, everything you learn can be applied to any other business venture.” The Bovi-Jet team has been flexible and willing to pivot when necessary to keep moving forward. Belling and Meyer have had entrepreneurial mindsets from a young age, but every day they are learning more about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Belling encourages any student considering entrepreneurship to just do it.
As Belling and Meyer prepare to scale up their business, they are asking the community to connect them with cattle producers locally and nation-wide. Their goal is to get Bovi-Jet into the hands of farmers everywhere. Head over to their website to connect with Belling and Meyer and learn more about Bovi-Jet.