Agriculture is always looking forward. We aren’t farming the way we did 50 years ago, and 50 years from now, we will be making strides we can barely dream of today. We can be optimistic for the future of farming thanks to innovation—from developments in technology to reimagining ways to use the tools we have today. Farm Bureau is proud to support innovators and entrepreneurs across this country who help farmers and ranchers meet the challenges of today and grow sustainably for tomorrow.
The American Farm Bureau launched the Ag Innovation Challenge in 2015 as the first competition of its kind to focus solely on rural entrepreneurs. Since then, the Challenge has become a platform to elevate start-up companies that are helping to shape the future of agriculture. Thanks to the support of our sponsors, this national business competition has awarded more than $1 million in start-up funds to entrepreneurs across the country who are developing innovative solutions to help farmers and ranchers.
Applications are still open for the 2022 competition, but time is nearly up. We’re calling all ag innovators to join the Challenge and apply by August 20, 2021. Farm Bureau along with our partner Farm Credit will select 10 semi-finalists who will win $10,000 each and the opportunity to compete for additional startup funds at the Farm Bureau Convention in Atlanta this January. After the semi-finalist round, four finalist teams will be selected there and receive an additional $5,000 each and the chance to compete live on the Cultivation Center Stage at our convention trade show. The 2022 Ag Innovation Challenge winner will receive a total of $50,000 and the runner up a total of $20,000. We also invite convention attendees to join in the fun and select a People’s Choice winner who will receive an additional $5,000.
I can’t wait to meet this year’s competitors, but the Challenge isn’t just about the final competition at the Farm Bureau Convention. I am inspired by these entrepreneurs year-round, and love hearing how they are using the Challenge start-up funds to expand their businesses. For many competitors, the Ag Innovation Challenge provides a springboard for their businesses not only through prize money but also by helping them connect with other businesses, investors and customers.
I got to catch up with the 2021 Challenge winners, Riley Clubb and James Christopher Hall, co-founders of Harvust, on my Farmside Chat podcast. Not only did funding from the Challenge help kick their business into high gear, sharing their software platform with thousands of farmers and ranchers across the country at the Farm Bureau Virtual Convention has also expanded their customer base.
The Challenge isn’t just a boost for the winner either. 2021 semi-finalist TerraClear recently announced they received $25 million of Series A funding led by Madrona Venture Group. TerraClear, led by Trevor Thompson, is using cutting edge technology like AI to clear rocks from fields, increasing farm efficiency, protecting machinery and improving sustainability.
Another semi-finalist and 2020 Challenge competitor, the Bêne Baby Company announced their product line will be distributed through Kroger soon. Bêne Baby is the only goats-milk-based toddler formula in the U.S. Drs. Nikos Linardakis and James Esselman developed this nutritious product, which provides another market for U.S. goat farmers. I can’t wait to see more Ag Innovation Challenge products in local grocery stores!
We truly are stronger together, especially when we work across our rural business community to help us fulfill our mission of safely and sustainably growing our nation’s food, fiber and fuel. Please join us in spreading the word about the 2022 Ag Innovation Challenge, as we work together to elevate and support the innovative businesses that will help agriculture continue to move forward and address the challenges ahead.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.