The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, has opened online applications for its 2019 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. Entrepreneurs will compete for $145,000 in startup funds.

The competition provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations in agriculture. This is the fifth year of the challenge, formerly known as the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. It is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs launching food and agriculture businesses.

Competitors are invited to submit for-profit business ideas related to food and agriculture online by Sept. 24.

“Farm Bureau is proud to carry on our long tradition of strengthening the communities we live and farm in by encouraging new businesses across rural America,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Starting a business takes faith, courage and creativity, but rural entrepreneurs face added challenges including limited access to broadband, high transportation costs and a lack of access to business networks. Startup funds provided through the Challenge will help entrepreneurs working in food and agriculture take their businesses to the next level.”

Timeline and prizes

Ten semifinalist teams will be announced Nov. 9 and awarded $10,000. The final four teams (selected from the 10 semifinalist teams) will be announced Dec. 5 and will receive an additional $5,000 and have all expenses paid to compete in a live pitch competition at AFBF’s 100th Annual Convention in New Orleans Jan. 13. The final four teams will compete to win:

  • Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year award and $15,000 (chosen by judges), for a total of $30,000
  • People’s Choice award and $10,000 (chosen by public vote), for a total of $25,000

Rural entrepreneurs with businesses in the following categories are encouraged to apply:

  • Ag technologies;
  • Agritourism;
  • CSAs, farmers’ markets, food stands and food hubs;
  • Farms, ranches, greenhouses, managed forests, aquaponics, cut flowers, herbs, honey and landscape plants;
  • Farm-to-table businesses;
  • Support services including scouting, equipment repair and fertilizer sales;
  • Value-added processing including yogurts, cheese and processed meats; and
  • Wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries.

Entrepreneurs must be Farm Bureau members to compete. Applicants who are not Farm Bureau members have until Nov. 5 to join. Visit ofbf.org/join to learn about becoming a member. Detailed eligibility guidelines, the competition timeline and profiles of past challenge winners are available at the Challenge website.

Startup funds for the 2019 Ag Innovation Challenge are provided by sponsors Farm Credit, John Deere and Farm Bureau Bank.

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