College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Esther Yeboah Akoto: International entrepreneur, researcher, product developer, and student 

2024-May-9-ABE-Graduate student standing in front of feed mill.
2024-May-9-ABE-Graduate student standing in front of feed mill.

Esther Yeboah Akoto is a graduate student in Agriculture and Biosystems (ABE) Engineering, and she is a business owner, researcher, and campus leader.  

Her journey to Iowa State  

After completing her master’s in food science and technology in Georgia, she intended to pursue her PhD but she had to return home to Ghana instead. From a young age Yeboah Akoto had an interest in entrepreneurship but did not have a clear path for a business. Facing the unexpected shift in plans, she focused her efforts on food at home. Pinesod Foods is her startup that produces, rebrands and distributes traditional Ghanaian foods.  

“I had to leave, and I was feeling discouraged. But I realized that I had my education. I had my head. I had my experience, I can make it happen,” Yeboah Akoto said.  

The business was small at first, processing and distributing out of a corner of her brother’s home. Yeboah Akoto, her mother, and her brothers have registered Pinesod with the FDA and have continued to grow over the past three years. She has big goals for Pinesod’s future, “I really like to serve people. I want to see our business grow to give more people jobs to provide for their families,” Yeboah Akoto said.  

As a Cyclone 

Still inspired to continue her education, Iowa State’s reputation for innovation in food science and entrepreneurship caught her eye. At Iowa State, Yeboah Akoto’s research identifies and establishes food safety standards for the ISU Kent Feed Mill. Recently published, her research can be applied to enhance efficiency, quality and safety in feed mills across the country.  

In addition to progressing in her PhD, Yeboah Akoto is a member of the Prepping Future Faculty program. ABE Department Chair Amy Kaleita is her faculty mentor.  

“Each meeting, I learn something from Dr, Kaleita – things about the industry, higher education, as well as how to be a proud woman in engineering. She is an amazing resource in how to be an effective leader,” Yeboah Akoto said.  

Already a successful entrepreneur and accomplished academic, Yeboah Akoto continues to experience Cyclone Engineering to its fullest. “Iowa State has given me the grounds to be nourished and do my best,” Yeboah Akoto said.  

Yeboah Akoto believes she has had an amazing experience at Iowa State University thus far and feels she is learning beyond her PhD. She has established many relationships with fellow students, faculty, and staff on campus, learning something from each of them.