> Focus On Agriculture

$145,000 Offered in Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge

Guest Author

Special Contributor to FB.org

2023 Ag Innovation Challenge finalists, EmGenisys, Inc.

photo credit: EmGenisys, Uses with Permission

Did you know that small businesses are especially vital in rural areas, creating about two-thirds of rural jobs? Often, this helps build rural communities as more people get their business ideas off the ground.

The American Farm Bureau Federation's Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge is helping communities around the nation by providing individuals an opportunity to showcase their ideas and innovations while competing for a total of $145,000 in startup funding. Along the way, participants get advice from business experts serving as mentors and judges. They learn how to pitch their ideas, write business plans, approach investors and market themselves.

Now in its third year, the application period for the current challenge is open through June 30. Competitors may submit for-profit business ideas related to food and agriculture online here. All applications must include a business plan, video pitch and photo.

Owners of all types of businesses across the food and agriculture supply chain are encouraged to enter the competition. Ten rural entrepreneurs will receive funding to take their businesses to the next level.

Businesses related to food and agriculture include farms or ranches, value-added food processing, food hubs, community-supported agriculture programs, farm-to-table restaurants, farmers' markets, wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries. Businesses can also support food and agriculture such as crop scouting, agritourism, ag advertising agencies and ag technology companies.

Judges will review the applications and provide feedback to the participants. The top 10 teams will be announced in October. This includes six teams who will each win $10,000 in startup funds.

The final four teams will compete in a live competition at AFBF's 98th Annual Convention in Phoenix on January 8, 2017, to win:

  • Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year award and $30,000 (chosen by judges);
  • People's Choice award and $25,000 (chosen by public vote);
  • First runner-up prize, $15,000; and
  • Second runner-up prize, $15,000.

The Entrepreneur of the Year award and the People's Choice award will be awarded to two different teams.

Check-ins with prior winners and finalists reveal that start-up funds won in the challenge have been put to good use.

For example, ScoutPro, Inc. of Pleasantville, Iowa, team lead Michael Koenig, was named Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 at AFBF's 96th Annual Convention. ScoutPro received a total of $30,000 in prize money to implement the winning business idea - software to assist farmers with crop maintenance.

Koenig and his business partners used the start-up funds they won in the competition to re-build and re-launch an updated version of their crop scouting software for growers.

"After launching the grower software in 2012, we discovered that few farmers had tablets" and thus were not able to use the technology, Koenig said. The partners quickly pivoted, successfully focusing on the ag retailer market instead.

Fast forward three years and "Most growers now have the mobile technology capable of operating our software," Koenig explained. They offer scouting software free to growers who scout their own acres for weeds, insects and diseases, and utilize the services and feedback of advisers in making in-season decisions.

Learn more online at www.strongruralamerica.com/challenge.

Cyndie Shearing is director of internal communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation.