> News Release

Barn Owl Precision Agriculture Wins Ag Innovation Challenge

Secret Garden Bees wins People’s Choice Award

AFBF Staff

Sarah Hinkley, Barn Owl Precision Agriculture

photo credit: AFBF - Michael LoBiondo

The Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge, now in its 10th year, provides opportunities for Farm Bureau members to showcase business innovations being developed for agriculture. Barn Owl Precision Agriculture is the winner of this year’s competition. The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, announced the winner from among four finalists at the 2024 American Farm Bureau Convention.

Barn Owl Precision Agriculture received a total of $50,000 to grow the business. Sarah Hinkley and Bryan Stafford, Colorado Farm Bureau members, are team leads for the company, which manufactures a fully autonomous robot that supports farmers as they plant crops, control weeds and collect soil samples.

Udder Ways was named runner-up in the contest and received a total of $20,000. Zachary Neal and Jody Neal, New York Farm Bureau members, are team leads for the company, which developed an innovative device that improves sanitation and enhances milk flow as dairy cattle are milked.

Secret Garden Bees, one of the 10 semi-finalist teams, won the People’s Choice Award, which is decided by public vote, and received $5,000 in additional prize money. Jim Hartman, a North Carolina member, is team lead for the company, which is a veteran-owned and operated honey farm that helps train veterans seeking to enter agriculture.

Appanoose Manufactured Products of Iowa, team lead Marck Mendick; and ReproHealth Technologies of Indiana, team leads Jim Donahue and Michael Whitt, also reached the final four round of the competition.

The final four teams were selected on Friday from the 10 semi-finalist business owners who presented to a panel of three industry judges: Will Hileman, president & CEO, Farm Bureau Bank; Trey Davis, state policy & advocacy lead, Bayer CropScience; and Jarrod McGinnis, division customer support manager, John Deere.

Each of the semi-finalist teams was awarded $10,000; the final four teams were awarded an additional $5,000 each.

“The hardworking entrepreneurs we’re recognizing today are the driving force behind the resilience and ingenuity of American agriculture,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “We commend their commitment to helping rural communities and supporting farmers and ranchers in their mission to provide the food, fuel and fiber we all rely on.”

The Ag Innovation Challenge winner was selected by a three-person judging panel: Angela Bailey, president, Oregon Farm Bureau; David G. Brown, president and CEO, Western AgCredit; George Gough, state policy & advocacy lead west, Bayer CropScience.

Farm Bureau is proud to recognize these innovative businesses, in partnership with sponsors Farm Credit, Bayer Crop Science, John Deere, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services and T-Mobile. Learn more about the competition at fb.org/challenge.

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