Ag Innovation Challenge

The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, has opened online applications for the 2021 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. This national business competition showcases U.S. startup companies that are addressing challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Farm Bureau will award $145,000 in startup funds provided by sponsors Farm Credit, John Deere, Bayer Crop Science, Country Financial, Farm Bureau Financial Services and Farm Bureau Bank.

Focused on rural entrepreneurs

Launched in 2015 as the first national competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs, the Challenge continues to identify the next ag entrepreneurs to watch and supports innovation essential to Farm Bureau member businesses and communities. For this seventh year of the competition, Farm Bureau is seeking entrepreneurs who are addressing both traditional challenges farmers and rural communities face – like the 2020 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, Dana Mohr with HydroSide Systems, who developed an automated irrigation system – as well as business owners tackling new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“In light of the impacts Farm Bureau members are experiencing from COVID-19, solutions from entrepreneurs are needed more than ever to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “We’re very interested to see how entrepreneurs will use startup funds provided by the Challenge to help support farms and ranches and grow the rural economy.”

For example, 2020 Ag Innovation Challenge semi-finalist AgButler recently partnered with Missouri Farm Bureau to launch MO AgConnection. The business connects farmers with high school and college students who may be able to provide the extra hands required to keep farms and ranches running smoothly. Rantizo, another 2020 semi-finalist business, is testing the use of autonomous drone sprayers to sanitize large-scale venues, such as MLB stadiums and other spectator events.

Contest details

Farm Bureau and Farm Credit will select 10 startup companies to compete at the AFBF Annual Convention in January 2021 as semi-finalists. The 10 semi-finalist teams will be announced on Oct. 5 and awarded $7,500 each. The 10 teams will compete to advance to the final round where four teams will receive an additional $7,500 and compete live on stage in front of Farm Bureau members, investors and industry representatives. The final four teams will compete to win:

  • Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, for a total of $50,000
  • People’s Choice award, for a total of $20,000

The top 10 semi-finalist teams will participate in pitch training and mentorship from Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management faculty prior to competing at AFBF’s Convention. In addition, the top 10 semi-finalist teams will have the opportunity to network with industry leaders and venture capital representatives from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Business Investment Companies.

Entrepreneurs must be Farm Bureau members to qualify as top 10 semi-finalists. (Find Ohio Farm Bureau membership information here.) Detailed eligibility guidelines, the competition timeline, videos and profiles of past winners are available at fb.org/challenge.

Applications must be received by midnight Eastern Daylight Time on Aug. 14, 2020. For more information or program-related questions, please email [email protected].

Young Active Member

 

 
Photo caption: Dana Mohr, CEO and founder of HydroSide Systems LLC. Photo courtesy American Farm Bureau Federation.
Having opportunities to attend leadership institutes, advocate for rural Ohioans on the state and national level, facilitate young ag professionals events, and serve in a variety of leadership positions have helped my skills grow exponentially.
Sara Tallmadge's avatar
Sara Tallmadge

Ashland County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Business Solutions
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
I was gifted the great opportunity through an Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Youth Pathways grant to run a series of summer camps here. That really expanded my vision of what ‘grow, maintain, sustain and explain’ could actually be.
Jim Bruner's avatar
Jim Bruner

Mezzacello Urban Farms

Farming for Good
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Advocacy
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