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 rural challenges faced by America’s farmers and ranchers and their 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.
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.
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. Applicants who are not Farm Bureau members can join a state Farm Bureau of their choice here. Detailed eligibility guidelines, the competition timeline, videos and profiles of past winners are available on their website. Applications must be received by midnight Eastern Daylight Time on July 31, 2020.