Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

Ag Innovation Event Participants and Judges
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Entrepreneurs Needed to Rise to the Challenge

The Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge is a national business competition that showcases U.S. startups developing innovative solutions that address challenges facing America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. Launched in 2015, The Challenge was the first national business competition of its kind focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs.

Now in their seventh year, the American Farm Bureau Federation in partnership with Farm Credit, are looking to identify the top entrepreneurs who are addressing both traditional challenges farmers face on their operation, such as access to labor, optimizing yield and reducing operating costs, to entrepreneurs who are addressing new challenges facing farmers and rural communities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farm Bureau will award $145,000 in startup funds to ten businesses, culminating at a live pitch competition and networking event at the AFBF Annual Convention in January 2021 in San Diego, CA. The Farm Bureau Entrepreneurs of the Year will be awarded $50,000 in startup funds provided by sponsors Bayer Crop Science, Country Financial, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services, Farm Credit and John Deere.

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.
—  AFBF President Zippy Duvall

Applications are now open. Apply here to be the 2021 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year. 



Farm Bureau will award $145,000 to ten businesses:

  • $50,000 will be awarded to the 2021 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year
  • $20,000 will be awarded to the People’s Choice Award winner (chosen by public vote)
  • $15,000 will be awarded to two finalist teams
  • $7,500 will be awarded to six semi-finalist teams


Farm Bureau is accepting applications through midnight Eastern Daylight Time on July 31, 2020. Farm Bureau and the Farm Credit Rural Investment and Innovation Workgroup will select ten startup businesses to compete at the AFBF Annual Convention in January 2021 as Semi-Finalists. These ten businesses will be announced on October 5th and awarded $7,500 each.

Farm Bureau has partnered with Cornell University’s Center for Regional and Economic Advancement to provide pitch training and mentorship for the ten semi-finalist businesses with faculty from Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management.

Ten semi-finalist businesses will compete in two rounds of competition at the 2021 AFBF Annual Convention. Farm Bureau will cover transportation expenses and hotel accommodations for two members of each semi-finalist team to attend and compete in San Diego.  In the first round, teams will have five minutes to pitch their business to a panel of industry judges in front of an audience of Farm Bureau and industry leaders, and venture capital representatives from USDA Rural Business Investment Companies. In this round, teams can use a presentation to support their pitch and will receive feedback from the judges.

Four finalist teams will advance to compete on stage in the final, live-streamed competitive event in front of industry representatives, investors and Farm Bureau members. Each team will have three minutes to pitch their business to a panel of industry judges.

The four finalist teams will compete to be the People’s Choice Award winner (by public vote) for a total of $20,000 and to be the 2021 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year to win a total of $50,000. The Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year and the People’s Choice Award winner will be announced at AFBF Annual Convention Closing General Session on January 11th, 2021.

While attending the AFBF Annual Convention, the ten teams will have the opportunity to promote their businesses and network with industry leaders, venture capitalists, Rural Business Investment Companies, ag incubator program leaders, entrepreneurs and university researchers.

AFBF’s Ag Innovation Challenge far exceeded my expectations and was one of the most valuable competitions I have ever been a part of.
—  Finalist and Maryland Farm Bureau member, Dawn Musil of Hivelend

Meet the 2020 Challenge Top Ten Entrepreneurs

   Credit: AFBF   

2020 Final Four teams and Challenge judges.

2020 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year

Credit: AFBF   

HydroSide Systems LLC
Team Lead: Dana Mohr
Idaho Farm Bureau member

Website | Facebook

Most farmers don't want to spend time moving and maintaining irrigation lines. That's why we invented HydroSide. Our system automates your wheel lines and hose reels so your crops get the right water at the right time. Take back your time and let HydroSide help you run your farm even smoother. Watch their video pitch.

2020 People's Choice Award Winner

Credit: AFBF   

Innovative Agricultural Technologies, LLC
Team Lead: Matthew Parker
North Carolina Farm Bureau member


Baling pine straw for landscaping use is a $250+ million industry across the southeast, relying almost entirely on hand labor.  IAT, LLC has designed and built the first-ever production-level machine to remove sticks and pine cones from pine straw and cut labor costs by up to 80%: the Pine Bine! Watch their video pitch.


Credit: AFBF   

Team Lead: Dawn Musil
Maryland Farm Bureau member

WebsiteTwitter | Instagram | Facebook

Hivelend is an online platform that connects beekeepers and farmers for sustainable pollination. By connecting these sideliners to pollination contracts, we are supporting them financially and enabling them to better care for their hives, and by connecting the smaller farmers to pollination contracts we are enabling increased crop yields through supplemental pollination. By working on a local scale, we are decreasing the stress on bees, the movement of disease and the risk of pesticide exposure. By ensuring farmers and beekeepers are supported with healthier crop yields, Hivelend is helping to feed the future. Watch their video pitch.

Credit: AFBF   

Team Lead: Michael Ott
Iowa Farm Bureau member

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Rantizo is developing an integrated drone-based platform for the identification of in-field anomalies and targeted aerial application of agricultural products via our electrostatic spray technology on board unmanned aerial vehicles.  This allows for lower volume chemical delivery, safer chemical handling, and more precise treatment, allowing for yield-enhancing applications to occur which would have previously been uneconomical to farmers.  Our revolutionary spray techniques will address customer pain in the form of reduced labor and capital expenditure, increase crop yields through reduced crop destruction and soil compaction, and diminished environmental damage from chemical over-application and spray drift. Watch their video pitch.


Team Lead: Kevin Johansen
Missouri Farm Bureau member 

Website | Facebook

AgButler is a gig economy platform that serves as a solution to a rural labor shortage in America. We provide on-demand jobs giving farmers and ranchers access to a high-quality labor force while boosting rural economies. AgButler enables agriculture productivity, one click at a time. Watch their video pitch

Green State Biochar
Team Lead: Donna Pion 
Vermont Farm Bureau member


We hold a provisional patent on an innovative and novel Soil Conditioner Injection System (SCIS) with application rates of 20+ gallons per each 8-second cycle at depths of 1"-6" and which substantially seals manure, fertilizer, and/or biochar into a found recess. Watch their video pitch.

Team Lead: Tinia Pina
New York Farm Bureau member

Website | Twitter | InstagramFacebook

Re-Nuble uniquely transforms unrecoverable produce waste into plant-based technologies for both soil-based and hydroponic cultivation. Its core technology (a patent-pending device and trade secretly formulated fertilizer pellet) enables hydroponic farming to affordably yield fully organic produce, where the only organic alternative is up to 69% more expensive. At the same time, we offer a value-add to food waste generators as well by locating near their facilities, reducing their hauling costs. Watch their video pitch.

Team Lead: B.J. Brugman
Iowa Farm Bureau member


Inaccurate daily animal inventory counts create a host of problems for swine producers. The impact of inaccurate inventory is felt throughout the pork supply chain from the individual caregiver to the scheduler at the harvest facility. SwineSentinel combines AI and computer vision to accurately track animal inventory in real-time and connects this key information to the production team. 

The Bene Baby Company, Inc.
Team Lead: Nikos Linardakis
Wisconsin Farm Bureau member


The Bêne Baby Company is located in central Wisconsin, and has created the first-of-its-kind, patent-pending, human infant formula, breast milk equivalent, made from goat’s milk and healthy nutrient ingredients. "Bêne delivers Bênefits!" The formula was designed for standard, term infants as a hypoallergenic baby formula powder mix. This ideal mother’s milk alternative was physician-formulated and has the closest composition to human breast milk. Watch their video pitch.

Tractor Zoom
Team Lead: Kyle McMahon
Iowa Farm Bureau member

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

We help people find and value heavy equipment. We’re like AutoTrader and Kelly Blue Book, but for heavy equipment. Our data helps banks make financing decisions, dealers make smart deals, insurance companies with underwriting and claims pricing, as well as farmers make educated buying and selling decisions. Watch their video pitch.

Meet the 2020 Judges

   Credit: AFBF   

Finalist judges:

  • Barney Debnam- Microsoft, Global Agriculture Strategy Lead

  • Dr. Ed Rister- Texas A&M University, Department of Agricultural Economics

  • Nick Wijnberg- Farm Credit Mid-America, Vice President of Food & Agribusiness

   Credit: AFBF   

Semi-finalist judges:

  • Kyle Collins- John Deere, Business Development Manager
  • Martha Smith- Bayer Crop Science, Global Industry Affairs Lead
  • Andrew Rose- Farm Credit Mid-Atlantic, Director of Innovation, Strategy and Development
  • David Dornbirer- CoBank, Vice President- Public/Private Partnerships
  • Lawrence Page, PhD- Lewis & Clark Ventures, Principal
  • Ben Fogle- Midwest Growth Partners, Partner
  • Tom Schryver- Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, Executive Director
  • Jenn Smith- Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement, Grow-NY Director


July 31, 2020

Application Deadline

Oct. 5, 2020

Top Ten Semi-Finalists Announced

Dec. 2020

Semi-Finalist Pitch Training

Jan. 8-10, 2021

Top Ten Compete at AFBF Annual Convention in San Diego, CA

Jan. 11 2021

Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year & People's Choice Award Winners Announced

Watch the 2020 Challenge

Terms and Conditions

Entrepreneurs must be Farm Bureau members to qualify as a top ten semi-finalist. Applicants who are not Farm Bureau members can join a state Farm Bureau of their choice. Visit to learn about becoming a member.

Partnering with Farm Credit to Support Rural Entrepreneurship 

Farm Credit supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services, today and tomorrow. Our nationwide network of customer-owned financial institutions provides loans and related financial services to U.S. farmers and ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural homebuyers, agribusinesses and rural infrastructure providers.

Providing much-needed capital to Rural Business Investment Companies (RBICs) and other rural entities, mentoring rural entrepreneurs and fostering innovation in rural America are other ways Farm Credit fulfills its mission to support vibrant rural communities. That is why Farm Credit is pleased to be the American Farm Bureau Federation’s premier partner on the Ag Innovation Challenge.

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