The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), in partnership with Farm Credit, has opened online applications for the 2021 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. This national business competition showcases U.S. startup companies that are addressing challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
Launched in 2015 as the first national competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs, the Challenge continues to identify the next ag entrepreneurs to watch and supports innovation essential to Farm Bureau member businesses and communities.
For the competition’s seventh years, Farm Bureau is seeking entrepreneurs who are addressing both traditional challenges farmers and rural communities face — like the 2020 Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, Dana Mohr with HydroSideSystems, who developed an automated irrigation system — as well as business owners tackling new challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In light of the impacts Farm Bureau members are experiencing from COVID-19, solutions from entrepreneurs are needed more than ever to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. “We’re very interested to see how entrepreneurs will use startup funds provided by the Challenge to help support farms and ranches and grow the rural economy.”
Michigan was well-represented at the 2019 competition. Ag Help of Belding was chosen as one of the final four teams for their agricultural “app-based” employment recruitment tool that links interested farmers and potential employees together. It is used for both domestic and H-2A Seasonal Guest Worker recruitment.
“We were very excited and honored to be selected into the Final Four,” said Feliciano Paredes, one of the company’s founders. “It was a great opportunity to showcase our solution to one of agriculture’s most pressing problems. Being recognized as innovators in this space is what we are striving to do now and as AgHelp continues to grow.”
Farm Bureau and Farm Credit will select 10 startup companies to compete at the AFBF Annual Convention in January 2021 as semi-finalists. The 10 semi-finalist teams will be announced on Oct. 5 and awarded $7,500 each. The 10 teams will compete to advance to the final round where four teams will receive an additional $7,500 and compete live on stage in front of Farm Bureau members, investors and industry representatives. The final four teams will compete to win:
- Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year ($50,000)
- People’s Choice award ($20,000)
The top 10 semi-finalist teams will participate in pitch training and mentorship from Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics & Management faculty prior to competing at AFBF’s Convention. In addition, the top 10 semi-finalist teams will have the opportunity to network with industry leaders and venture capital representatives from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Business Investment Companies.
Entrepreneurs must be Farm Bureau members to qualify as top 10 semi-finalists. Applicants who are not Farm Bureau members can join a state Farm Bureau of their choice.
Applications must be received by midnight Eastern Daylight Time on July 31, 2020.