The American Farm Bureau Federation, in partnership with Farm Credit, has opened online applications for the 2020 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. In its sixth year, the Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge is a national business competition for U.S. food and agriculture startups. Entrepreneurs will compete for $145,000 in startup funds.

Last year, Tucson, Arizona’s Merchant’s Garden AgroTech earned a nationwide semifinalist spot with 9 others in American Farm Bureau’s (AFBF) Ag Innovation Challenge. Semi-finalists received $10,000 each.

“Being named a Top 10 Innovation from the American Farm Bureau, the largest farm organization in the world, brought significant value to our company beyond the $10,000 in cash award,” said Merchant’s Garden owner and Arizona Farm Bureau-member Chaz Shelton.

Launched in 2015 as the first national competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs, the competition continues to provide an opportunity for U.S. startups to showcase business innovations in food and agriculture. Startup funds for the Challenge are provided by sponsors Farm Credit, John Deere, Bayer Crop Science, Farm Bureau Bank, Country Financial and Farm Bureau Financial Services.


“We know that in order to curb the migration of youth and big thinkers out of rural communities we need to provide opportunities for them to shine and expand entrepreneurial activities,” says Arizona Farm Bureau President and southern Arizona rancher Stefanie Smallhouse. “Strong communities depend on small businesses and the entrepreneurial spirit. We have already seen some great innovation in Arizona agriculture, and I would encourage others to take on this challenge.”


To apply for the 2020 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge, competitors can apply online at by midnight Eastern Standard Time on Sept. 30, 2019.


“It takes faith, courage, and creativity to start a business,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Rural entrepreneurs face a number of additional challenges compared to their urban counterparts. These include limited access to broadband, high transportation costs and a lack of access to business networks. We’re very interested to see how entrepreneurs working in food and agriculture will use startup funds provided by the Challenge to take their businesses to the next level.”


Ten semifinalist teams will be announced on Nov. 5 and awarded $10,000 each. All 10 semifinalist teams will travel to AFBF’s Annual Convention, in Austin, Texas, on January 2020, with all expenses paid, to compete in a live competition to be the Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year. The 10 teams will compete in Austin to advance to the final round where four teams will receive an additional $5,000 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 award and $15,000 (chosen by judges), for a total of $30,000
  • People’s Choice award and $10,000 (chosen by public vote), for a total of $25,000


Entrepreneurs and startups with businesses in the following categories are encouraged to apply:


  • Farm, ranch, greenhouse, aquaponics
  • Input product or crop variety
  • Method or tool for growing, monitoring or harvesting crops or livestock
  • Production support services
  • Retail, agritourism or farm-to-table business
  • Food/beverage/textile product or ingredient
  • Method of production, preparation or packaging of food/beverage/textile products or ingredients
  • Value-added processing including yogurts, cheeses and processed meats, wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries


Entrepreneurs must be Farm Bureau members to qualify as a top-10 semi-finalist. Applicants who are not Farm Bureau members can join a state Farm Bureau of their choice. Visit to learn about becoming a member. Detailed eligibility guidelines, the competition timeline, videos and profiles of past Challenge winners are available at