> Focus On Agriculture

Tech Entries Rise to the Top in This Year 's Farm Bureau Challenge

Guest Author

Special Contributor to FB.org

By Cyndie Shearing

"Entrepreneurship is alive and well in rural America," declared American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall as he announced the top 10 teams—four finalists and six semi-finalists—in the 2017 Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge.

The challenge, now in its third year, provides opportunities for individuals to showcase business innovations being developed in rural communities throughout the U.S. It is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses. It also addresses some of the unique obstacles entrepreneurs typically face, including limited options for support, such as startup funding.

It's a pleasure to recognize these 10 outstanding businesses. The FB Challenge addresses some of the unique obstacles entrepreneurs typically face, namely, limited options for support such as startup funding.

AFBF President Zippy Duvall

Four of the top 10 teams recognized in the competition are agriculture technology entries.

Grow Bioplastics LLC, one of the final four teams, produces renewable, biodegradable products that eliminate oil-based plastics for farmers, greenhouse and nursery managers, and home gardeners. The company, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, took home $15,000 in startup funds.

Windcall Manufacturing Inc., another final four honoree, developed Grain Goat, a battery powered, hand-held combine for sampling moisture Mcontent of grain. The company, based in Venango, Nebraska, took home $15,000 in startup funds.

Demeter Inc., a semi-finalist team headquartered in Irwin, Ohio, has developed low-cost precision agriculture software and sensor systems derived from rugged, field-tested military technologies. As a semi-finalist team, the company receives $10,000 in startup funds.

Performance Livestock Analytics Inc. of Osage, Iowa, also a semi-finalist team, creates data-driven, real-time farm management and analytics systems for precision livestock operations. As a semi-finalist team, the company receives $10,000 in startup funds.

The final four teams, chosen from 356 applicants, advance to the next phase of the challenge. They will pitch their business ideas to a team of judges in front of a live audience at AFBF's 98th Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Phoenix on January 8, 2017. They'll compete for the Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award and an additional $15,000 in prize money. After the live-streamed event, members of the public will be invited to vote online for the People's Choice Award and an additional $10,000.

The top 10 challenge teams were selected by 15 judges with expertise in business development, agribusiness lending and entrepreneurial coaching.

Cyndie Shearing
Director, Communications