Tech Entries Dominate 2016 Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge: American Farm Bureau Announces Top 10 Teams

Newsroom / October 6, 2015

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WASHINGTON, D.C., October 7, 2015 – The American Farm Bureau today announced the top 10 teams – four finalists and six semi-finalists – of the 2016 Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. The challenge, now in its second 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.

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AFBF President Bob Stallman made the announcement at the organization’s October board of directors meeting, noting that four of the top 10 teams are ag technology entries. The final four teams, chosen from 165 applicants, were each awarded $15,000 and will advance to the next phase of the challenge. They are:

  • AccuGrain (Rose Hill, Iowa), ag tech entry, X-ray technology to inventory flowing grain in real time. Team lead: Ryan Augustine.
  • AgriSync (Dallas Center, Iowa), ag tech entry, mobile customer support platform for crop farmers. Team lead: Casey Niemann.
  • Farm Specific Technology (Bolivar, Tennessee), ag tech entry, no-till crimper for cover crop production. Team lead: Shawn Butler.
  • Fedora Malthouse (Village of Shepherd, Michigan), value-added processing entry, malted barley production for use by craft beer brewers. Team lead: Julie Baker.

The final four will pitch their business ideas to a team of judges in front of a live audience at AFBF’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show in January in hopes of winning the Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award for an additional $15,000 and the People’s Choice Award for $10,000 more, totaling prize money of up to $40,000 to implement their ideas.

“The depth and diversity of business ideas in cultivation in rural areas across America is truly inspiring,” Stallman said. “The 10 businesses recognized today are an outstanding group of entrepreneurs,” he continued. “Rural entrepreneurs typically face unique challenges including limited options for support with resources such as startup funding, which we aim to address through the challenge.”

Semi-finalists were awarded $10,000 each, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Farm Credit Council. They are:

  • Cherry Brother Designs, LLC (Shelbyville, Indiana), farm safety entry, customizable farm and ranch safety plans. Team lead: Tina Cherry.
  • Kolb Farms (Cleveland, Wisconsin), farm/ranch entry, grass fed beef marketed direct to consumers. Team lead: Adam Kolb.
  • Lilac Hedge Farm (Berlin, Massachusetts), farm/ranch entry, pasture-raised beef, pork, lamb and poultry for direct sale to consumers. Team lead: Ryan MacKay.
  • Pumpkin Vine Creek, LLC (Paint Lick, Kentucky), farm/ranch entry, biodegradable ground covers to protect against soil erosion. Team lead: Robin Mason.
  • Smiling Hara LLC (Mars Hill, North Carolina), value-added processing entry, soy and soy-free tempeh production and sales. Team lead: McCayne Miller.
  • Strategic Management of Agriculture Related Technologies, S.M.A.R.T. (Oakland, Nebraska), ag tech entry, water conservation systems for farms and ranches. Team lead: Kurtis Charling.

The top challenge teams were selected by 40 judges with expertise in business development, equity investment fund management, agribusiness lending and entrepreneurial coaching.

Download photos, video and other media from the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge

About the American Farm Bureau Federation
With family members at the county or parish level in all 50 states and Puerto Rico, the American Farm Bureau Federation is the unified national “Voice of Agriculture,” working to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities. AFBF is the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots organization of farm and ranch families. Follow AFBF on Twitter (@FarmBureau) and Facebook. The challenge timeline, detailed eligibility guidelines and profiles are available online at

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