> The Zipline

Raising the Stakes in Ag Innovation

Zippy Duvall


photo credit: AFBF Photo, Michael LoBiondo

Innovation has long been a driving force behind progress in agriculture. From iron plows to driverless tractors and from pocket notebooks to instant Artificial Intelligence systems, new ideas and innovative businesses have continually pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in farming.

That is why at Farm Bureau, we value innovation as it helps spur agriculture on to new frontiers. More than a decade ago, we launched our Ag Innovation Challenge, a competition to help showcase innovative businesses that address challenges facing America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. For 2025, I’m pleased to announce that we’re doubling the prize to double the impact. Our winner will take home $100,000. Yes, I thought that might get your attention. The competition is officially open so I encourage ag entrepreneurs to apply.

We’re proud of our past winners and their work to advance agriculture. For instance, our 2024 winner, Barn Owl Precision, is supporting small and midsize farms with its autonomous robot that assists in planting, soil sampling, weed control and spraying. We also saw how our runner-up, Udder Ways, developed a new autonomous system that improves sanitation and enhances milk flow as dairy cattle are milked. Two shining examples of entrepreneurs dedicated to supporting farmers in their mission of providing the food, fuel and fiber we all rely on.

The Ag Innovation Challenge is more than a competition, though: it’s a platform for growth and collaboration.

The Ag Innovation Challenge is now in its 11th year, thanks to our partnership with Farm Credit and our sponsors Bayer Crop Science, John Deere, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services and T-Mobile. Together, we have invested over $1.5 million in agricultural businesses. This kind of investment not only helps entrepreneurs in the early financial stages of business but also supports innovations that can solve the challenges we’re facing both today and tomorrow.

The Ag Innovation Challenge is more than a competition, though: it’s a platform for growth and collaboration. Many of our previous winners have reflected on how the relationships they built during the process have been just as valuable as the prize money.

Additionally, Challenge finalists gain invaluable exposure and networking opportunities as they showcase their innovations at the American Farm Bureau Convention Trade Show. As an entrepreneur, how great would it be to connect directly with farmers and ranchers and even demonstrate how your solution can address real-world challenges? That is why we purposely set up the final round of the competition at the Cultivation Center Stage on our trade show floor. We put these finalists front-and-center to pitch their businesses to our panel of judges—and to thousands of potential customers, our farmer and rancher members.

As we look ahead to the 2025 Ag Innovation Challenge, I encourage you to check out fb.org/challenge to learn more about this competition, see some of our wonderful past winners, and share the information about the contest with an entrepreneur you may know.

We encourage all entrepreneurs with innovative agricultural solutions to seize this opportunity to be a part of something truly transformative for their business. Whether it’s new technologies, strategies to reduce operating costs or even new approaches to support our rural communities, your ideas have the power to drive agriculture forward.

Again, applications for the 2025 Ag Innovation Challenge are now open, so don’t wait to apply! I am already excited to see the next group of finalists who rise to the top and their innovations that will undoubtedly help shape the future of agriculture.