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 and Microsoft.
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)
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 2022 Challenge Top Ten Entrepreneurs
Birds Eye Robotics has developed an autonomous robot, Birds Eye, that removes bird mortality, tills up caked bedding and improves overall animal welfare by stimulating bird movement for the poultry industry.
Caravan Tech is an innovative company that has developed a tool for the real time tracing of livestock and a multitude of other farm management applications. Caravan Tech’s three flagship products working in unison are the Smart Ear Tags, intraruminal bolus and Caravan Chat system.
Team lead: Michael Lynch
Alabama Farm Bureau member
CHONEX is a soil health company that has developed a biological, proprietary process for upcycling poultry manure into a concentrated microbial bio-stimulant used to improve soil health by increasing soil microbes.
ExciPlex is an agtech startup developing a novel diagnostic technology for the on-site detection of mycotoxins in animal feed and feed inputs. This technology is designed to operate at every level of the feed production chain, thus a single core invention will deliver solutions to multiple different customer bases.
The Grain Weevil is a grain bin safety and management robot that directly engages the surface of the grain by leveling, breaking crusts and conducting inspections. The robot impacts the quality of stored grain and improves farmer well-being by controlling risks, controlling costs, and most importantly, removing the farmer from the bin.
Marble Technologies has developed robotic solutions that reduce the labor needs of beef and pork processing facilities to improve workplace safety by conducting tasks with a history of worker injury. Marble Technologies uses the latest advances in computer vision, artificial intelligence, and sensing technology to automate tasks in meat processing, beginning with the task of packing vacuum-sealed meat into boxes.
NEK Supply has developed the Quick-Pin design that allows tractors to be quickly, easily and safely unhooked from an implement, especially in cases of emergency. By removing the Quick Pin’s top shaft, hopping in the tractor and releasing the pressure, the main shaft will fall out allowing the tractor to become quickly and easily unhooked from the implement.
Propagate Ventures has developed an agroforestry platform that makes it easy for farmers and ranchers to access the operational know-how, implementation tools, financing and off-take agreements needed to reduce business risks while integrating fruit, nut and timber trees with animal or crop farming systems.
Team lead: Leighton Rice
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau member
StemPunk is the world's first hands-free, dual-dexterous, apple stem-clipping device to reduce stem punctures. The unique, patented design adds a large measure of efficiency to the process of harvesting high-value, fresh apple varieties.
Vulpes Agricultural Corp.
Team lead: Rick Shang
Missouri Farm Bureau member
Vulpes Agricultural Corp. is a manufacturing startup that has developed Carbon Black Acid, a fertilizer additive, through their accelerated R&D process. Vulpes’ flagship product, Carbon Black Acid, not only turns agricultural waste such as corn cob, sawdust, sugarcane bagasse into carbon sources that the soil and crops can use, but also modifies the carbon sources into carriers of nutrients and water. When crops take in the carbon sources, they simultaneously take in the additional dose of nutrients and water.
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
Farm Credit Bank of Texas
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.
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