SwineTech Inc. of Iowa is the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, AFBF officials said today. Team leads Matthew Rooda and Abraham Espinoza won AFBF’s Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge by beating three other teams from across the nation. AFBF announced the winner at its 2018 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show.
SwineTech Inc. took home a total of $30,000 in prize money, including an additional $15,000 from sponsor John Deere for its ag technology entry to reduce piglet mortality.
Garnering 48 percent of the vote, Hawk Knob of West Virginia won the People’s Choice Award sponsored by Farm Bureau Bank in the competition and an additional $10,000 in prize money. Hawk Knob produces craft beverages. Josh Bennett and Will Lewis are team leads for Hawk Knob.
Wild Valley Farms of Utah, led by Albert Wilde, and GeoAir of Tennessee, led by Alexander Adams, were the other two finalists who competed in the final round of the challenge in Nashville, Tennessee.
The final four teams competed for the award by pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges before a live audience. They were chosen from 471 applicants and each received $15,000 in October from Farm Credit and advanced in the competition.
“It’s a pleasure to recognize these outstanding rural businesses and entrepreneurs,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “It’s clear that the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is alive and well in rural America.”
Steve Geick, a director of industry relations for John Deere, said “John Deere’s commitment to the success of customers whose work is linked to the land is a great fit with the Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. We’re pleased to help sponsor this competition and support innovative entrepreneurs from rural communities.”
William Hileman, president and CEO of Farm Bureau Bank said “As a provider of financial services to rural America, Farm Bureau Bank understands the economic potential of rural communities. We are proud to sponsor the People’s Choice Award for the Farm Bureau Challenge. This competition successfully highlights the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit of rural America.”
The challenge, now in its fourth year, provides opportunities for individuals to showcase business innovations being developed in rural regions of the U.S. It is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture businesses. The top challenge teams were selected by judges with expertise in business development, equity investment funding management, agribusiness lending and entrepreneurial coaching.
“Farm Credit is excited to partner with Farm Bureau again for the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge because creativity and ingenuity abounds in rural America,” said Todd Van Hoose, CEO, Farm Credit Council. “Innovation and the start-up companies it often inspires are critical to the rural economy, and this competition recognizes the best and brightest. We look forward to watching the significant impact these winners will have on rural communities and agriculture.”
Best-in-show winners in the competition were awarded $10,000 each in startup funds in October. They are: Best Agritourism Startup: HomeGrown HideAways Certified Kitchen, Kentucky; Best Craft Beverage Startup: Waynesville Soda Jerks, North Carolina; Best Ag Technology Startup: SaleRing, Iowa; Best Farm-to-Table Startup: Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative, Arkansas; Best Local Product Startup: Hidden Pastures Goat Dairy, New York; and Best Farm Startup: Pangaea Plants Herb Farm, North Carolina. The top 10 challenge teams were selected by judges with expertise in business development, agribusiness lending and entrepreneurial coaching.