Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

Ag Entrepreneurs: Join the Challenge to Showcase Your Startup

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By Cyndie Shearing @Cyndie Shearing

We hear the word entrepreneur often, but it’s worthwhile to take a minute to really think about what it means. A widely accepted definition of entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”

Does that sound like anyone you know? Maybe even you? If you answered yes, read on to learn about a fantastic opportunity for entrepreneurs in agriculture.  

Now in its eighth year, the Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge is a national business competition that showcases U.S. startups developing innovative solutions to challenges facing America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

You may be wondering if there’s even a need for such a competition for ag entrepreneurs. 

The answer is an emphatic “yes!”

“The future of agriculture will rely on innovative solutions to the challenges we face,” is how AFBF President Zippy Duvall described it. Further, “The Ag Innovation Challenge helps entrepreneurs grow their ideas into products that support farmers and ranchers in their mission to provide the food, fuel and fiber we all rely on.”

Top 10 finalists from the last few years of the competition sing its praises.

“I believe that in many ways, being part of the Ag Innovation Challenge saved our farm,” noted Blake Place, a 2019 semi-finalist. She’s a farmer in New York and owns and operates Hidden Pastures Dairy with her husband, Andrew. The company produces goat milk gelato.

“Just sitting down and completing the application for the Ag Innovation Challenge helped us to think strategically about our farm business and where we wanted it to go in the future. Winning put us on the map and we received local, state and national attention,” she said.

According to 2020 semi-finalist Kevin Johansen of Missouri-based AgButler, “The Ag Innovation Challenge brought some of the most prominent ag tech investors and incubators to one event. We connected with mentors we’re still in touch with today. It’s great to have that ‘outside-the-bubble’ connection.” The AgButler app is a tool that connects individuals seeking work with farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses needing temporary labor.

Riley Clubb, co-founder of Harvust, the 2021 winner of the Ag Innovation Challenge, called participation “essential toward helping us grow into our vision.” Harvust is a software platform that helps farmers with their most valuable resource: their people. Walla Walla, Washington-based Harvust’s software platform helps farmers successfully hire, train and communicate with employees.

“I highly recommend this competition to every ag entrepreneur out there!” Clubb said.

AFBF, in partnership with Farm Credit, is accepting online applications for the 2022 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge through Aug. 20. Learn more and apply at https://www.fb.org/land/ag-innovation-challenge-2022.

Farm Bureau will award $165,000 in startup funds provided by sponsors Farm Credit, Bayer Crop Science, John Deere, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services and FMC Corporation.

Cyndie Shearing is director of communications at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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