Ag Innovation Challenge Offers Networking, Mentorship Opportunities

News / Newsline April 19, 2022

Credit: AFBF Photo by Philip Gerlach 

Applications for the 2023 Ag Innovation Challenge are due at the end of the month. Micheal Clements shares more with a previous participant on the benefits the national business contest provides.

Clements: The American Farm Bureau Federation’s Ag Innovation Challenge offers rural entrepreneurs a chance to help grow and innovate. Dusty Reynolds of Birds Eye Robotics, a company developing a robotic way to identify and remove mortality from poultry operations, was the runner up last year. Reynolds says the contest offers many benefits.

Reynolds: We looked at this as even if we walk away with $0, there's folks within those rooms, there's access to contacts, you're going to see a lot of people, you're going to rub shoulders with people who you never would have met. The cash is great, but honestly, it's the contacts, it's the relationships, it's the exposure that you're just not going to get if you hunker down in your office and just focus on your screen all day.

Clements: He says connecting with others through the Ag Innovation Challenge and the Farm Bureau Annual Convention helped his business.

Reynolds: We went to a restaurant and there was a fellow that we had met from the UK, he is an expert within poultry but also with computer vision. This is a guy that's provided a ton of resources for us just since we met him down there. Going to this pitch competition, you bump into someone, you never even know they existed, and we would not have met this guy and nor would [we] have been able to use the resources that he's brought, had we not went to Atlanta and been part of the competition.

Clements: Reynolds encourages all rural entrepreneurs to apply.

Reynolds: I don't understand why someone wouldn't do it, to be frank. I think a lot of the eyeballs go to the cash, and that's certainly part of the equation, but the reality is most startups don't know what they're doing and they're operating with a lot of question marks. Going down and being humble with yourself, being humble with others, you get a lot of insight into the industry, you get access to contacts, maybe you get access to a bit of cash, and so I'd really encourage anyone just to take the time, submit a video, get your application in and go from there.

Clements: Applications are open until April 29. Learn more and apply online at fb.org/challenge.

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 2023 in San Juan, PR. The Ag Innovation Challenge Winner will be awarded $50,000 in startup funds provided by sponsors Farm CreditBayer Crop ScienceJohn DeereFarm Bureau Bank and Microsoft.

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