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Farm Bureau rural innovation challenge has $165K up for grabs

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Unfortunately, there are still gaps and barriers to living in rural America compared with urban areas. In an effort to address those challenges and others found on the farm, the American Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Credit have once again teamed up for the Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge

Farm Bureau will award $165,000 in startup funds to U.S. startup companies that are providing solutions to challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. 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 eighth year of the competition, Farm Bureau is seeking entrepreneurs who are addressing either traditional or new/emerging challenges. The 2021 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, Riley Clubb with Harvust, addressed traditional challenges by developing a software platform that helps farmers successfully hire, train, and communicate with employees. The competition is also open to entrepreneurs tackling new challenges that surfaced due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Farm Bureau members across the country continue to grapple with a number of challenges associated with the pandemic,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Now, more than ever, we need creative solutions from entrepreneurs to help our farmers, ranchers and rural communities thrive.”

For example, 2021 Ag Innovation semi-finalist Butter Meat Co. is a beef supply chain startup based in Western New York that is working to improve the value proposition of retired dairy cows as beef for farmers and consumers. Owners of the business are building a dairy beef brand that increases the farm gate value and offers customers flavorful beef produced eco-consciously.

Farm Bureau and Farm Credit will select 10 startup companies to compete as semi-finalists at the AFBF Convention in January 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. The 10 semi-finalist teams will be announced on ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Oct. 5 and awarded $10,000 each. These 10 teams will compete to advance to the final round where four teams will receive an additional $5,000 each 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 Ag Innovation Challenge Winner, for a total of $50,000
  • Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge Runner-up, for a total of $20,000
  • People’s Choice Team selected by public vote, for an additional $5,000 (all 10 semi-finalist teams compete for this honor)

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. Visit their website to learn about becoming a member. Detailed eligibility guidelines, the competition timeline, videos, and profiles of past winners are available here. Applications must be received by midnight EDT Aug. 20.

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