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 eighth 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.
Farm Bureau will award $165,000 in startup funds to ten businesses, culminating at a live pitch competition and networking event at the AFBF Convention in January 2022 in Atlanta, GA. The Ag Innovation Challenge Winner will be awarded $50,000 in startup funds provided by sponsors Farm Credit, Bayer Crop Science, John Deere, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services, and FMC Corporation.
Farm Bureau will award $165,000 to ten businesses:
- $50,000 will be awarded to the 2022 Ag Innovation Challenge Winner
- $20,000 will be awarded to the 2022 Ag Innovation Challenge Runner-Up
- $15,000 will be awarded to two finalist teams
- $10,000 will be awarded to six semi-finalist teams
Additional $5,000 to the People's Choice Team (chosen by public vote; all ten teams are eligible)
April 7, 2021
Aug, 20, 2021
Oct. 5, 2021 at 12 pm Eastern
Top Ten Semi-Finalists Announced
Nov. and Dec. 2021
Semi-Finalist Pitch Training provided by Cornell University's SC Johnson College of Business
Jan. 7-9, 2022
Top Ten Compete at AFBF Convention
Jan. 10, 2022
Ag Innovation Challenge Winner, Runner-Up and People's Choice Team Announced
Ten startup businesses, selected by Farm Bureau and the Farm Credit Rural Investment and Innovation Workgroup, will compete at the AFBF Convention in January 2022 as semi-finalists. These ten businesses will be awarded $10,000 each.
The 10 semi-finalist teams will compete at the AFBF Convention on Friday, Jan. 7, to advance to the final round where the four finalist teams will receive an additional $5,000 for a total of $15,000. The final four teams will compete live in front of Farm Bureau members, investors and industry representatives to win:
- Ag Innovation Challenge Winner, for a total of $50,000
- Ag Innovation Challenge Runner-Up, for a total of $20,000
- People’s Choice Team, for an additional $5,000
The top 10 semi-finalist teams will participate in pitch training and mentorship from Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business faculty, and network with representatives from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Business Investment Companies.
Meet the 2021 Challenge Top Ten Entrepreneurs
2021 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year
Harvust is a software platform to help farms with their most valuable resource: their people. From the moment a new employee walks in the door to the moment they are doing productive work, Harvust is making some of the most important HR tasks on a farm like hiring, training, and communication simple, fast, and organized.
2021 People's Choice Award Winner
Agro Empresas Black Belt is a company that standardizes the methods and processes necessary for hydroponic production. The business uses the integration of Lean Six Sigma methodology in the development of agricultural production processes in abandoned poultry facilities among others. It identifies facilities and provides supporting tools in continuous research and developments.
Arbré Technologies, Inc. is a Wisconsin-based startup that uses state-of-the-art software and innovative RFID hardware to help horticultural businesses efficiently manage inventory — improving workflows, eliminating waste, reducing time, decreasing costs, and improving margins.
TerraClear improves farm productivity by automating the clearance of hazardous rocks from farm fields. TerraClear is developing an end-to-end system for field rock removal that reduces the labor requirement of an unpopular, but important farm activity - picking rock.
AgriHoodBaltimore is a thriving Marketplace, Community Shared Agriculture and Urban Farmer Training Resource Institute with a focus on developing the next generation of Junior Urban Farmers.
PumpTrakr is a platform that manages irrigation well pump locations, activity, fuel levels, maintenance concerns, and more, all in one convenient app. PumpTrakr lets you view your entire irrigation system at one time, reducing stress, mistakes, and omissions in your daily routine. PumpTrakr allows for easy record-keeping that saves time and money, and provides clear communication and decision-making knowledge between yourself and other pump managers.
Butter Meat Co. is a beef supply chain startup based in Western New York working to improve the value proposition of retired dairy cows as beef for farmers and consumers. Their mission is to build a dairy beef brand that increases the farm gate value and offers customers differentiated flavorful beef eco-consciously.
Insulights are an affordable, agricultural electric fence insulator that helps livestock and orchard managers protect and manage their electric fences. Insulights are the only blue insulator equipped with a flashing LED light that warns farmers and ranchers of their damaged electric fence.
Parasanti is an AI/ML company dedicated to placing advanced analytics into the hands of our nation's farmers and ranchers. Parasanti is a veteran and farmer-led company that has first-hand knowledge of the difficulties in capturing upstream data from the farm and transforming it into critical insights that drive decisions for the farmer in areas with limited bandwidth connection. Parasanti offers a simple, lightweight, and affordable IoT driven plug and play solution for the farmer that delivers hyper-localized insights into the health of the farm as well as leverages machine learning to deliver predictive models of future yields, weather, and even relevant commodity pricing.
Row Shaver Systems, LLC was started to combat the ever increasing problem of herbicide resistant weeds. The first part of the system, the Row Shaver, is a patent pending agricultural implement that cleans weeds from between the rows of any row crop. It has an aft mounted hooded sprayer/top dress attachment that allows for the option of spraying herbicides/fertilizer on grasses and small weeds with chemicals that could normally be harmful to the growing crop.
Meet the 2022 Ag Innovation Challenge Team
Vice President, Public/Private Partnerships
Dave Dornbirer is Vice President, Public/Private Partnerships at CoBank, a national cooperative bank and member of the Farm Credit System. He leads the bank’s mission-related investment activities both as a limited partner in private equity funds and as a direct investor in bonds financing essential community facilities serving rural areas. He is a member of CoBank’s Investment Committee.
His role entails developing opportunities to extend CoBank’s financial capacity, strategic alliances and industry expertise for the purpose of expanding capital formation in rural economies and communities often through partnerships with government agencies, Farm Credit, institutional investors and other stakeholders. Dornbirer serves on the Steering Committee of the Farm Credit Rural Investment & Innovation Workgroup, the advisory group for the American Farm Bureau Federation Ag Innovation Challenge, the board of the National Rural Lenders Association, and the investment advisory councils for a number of private equity funds.
In 2004, he started his career at CoBank in the Water & Community Facilities group financing water and wastewater utilities as well as solid waste service providers throughout the United States. Prior to CoBank, he led the operations of fintech startup Blackbird Holdings, arranged financings of power and energy projects at NationsBank/Bank of America and served in the U.S. Navy. He is a graduate of Miami University and earned an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management.
Todd Erickson, CFA
Vice President, Commercial Lending
Todd has served FCBT since 2013, currently as an agribusiness lender. Todd previously held senior roles at other financial institutions, including as a global equity Portfolio Manager for Teacher Retirement System of Texas, and before that as a Vice President for Credit Suisse First Boston in New York, Tokyo, Chicago, and Houston, advising hedge funds and pensions. Todd holds an MBA and BBAs from the University of Texas at Austin. He has been a CFA charterholder since 2003.
Farm Bureau Innovation Team
American Farm Bureau Federation Staff
- Emma Larson, Assistant Director, Industry Relations
- Sarah Bair, Industry Relations Coordinator
Farm Credit Council Staff
Brittany Jablonsky, Vice President, Public Policy and Stakeholder Relations
Mary Carlson, Manager, Communications and Stakeholder Relations
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 fb.org/join 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.
For more information, visit www.FarmCredit.com.
For More Information