Let’s Get Another Arizona Farm Bureau Winner for the 2024 Ag Innovation Challenge
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), in partnership with Farm Credit, is seeking entrepreneurs to apply online for the 2024 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. Now in its 10th year, this national business competition showcases U.S. startup companies developing innovative solutions to challenges faced by America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
In 2018, Tucson, Arizona’s Merchant’s Garden AgroTech earned a nationwide semifinalist spot with nine others in this national Innovation Challenge competition. Semi-finalists that year 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.
Since then, Arizona Farm Bureau has had other volunteer member leaders submit to compete in the Innovation Challenge. We’re hoping for at least another top ten this year. But you must be a Farm Bureau member and you must apply to compete.
“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.”
This year, Farm Bureau is offering $165,000 in startup funds throughout the course of the competition, which will culminate in the top 10 semi-finalists competing in a live pitch competition in front of Farm Bureau members, investors and industry representatives at the AFBF Convention in January 2024 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“The future of agriculture and rural communities depends on successful innovation,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Through the Ag Innovation Challenge, we’re pleased to recognize start-up companies that provide solutions to problems facing rural America and support farmers in their mission to provide the food, fuel and fiber we all rely on.”
Applications remain open through May 12, and the 10 semi-finalist teams will be announced Sept. 12. Each of the semi-finalist teams will be awarded $10,000 and a chance to compete to advance to the final round where four teams will receive an additional $5,000 each. The final four teams will compete to win:
- Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge Winner, for a total of $50,000
- Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge Runner-up, for a total of $20,000
- People’s Choice Team selected by public vote, for an additional $5,000 (all 10 semi-finalist teams compete for this honor)
Prior to the live pitch competition, the top 10 semi-finalist teams will participate in pitch training and mentorship from Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business faculty, and network with representatives from the Agriculture Department’s Rural Business Investment Companies.
Recent winners of the Ag Innovation Challenge include NORDEF, a company that developed technology to produce diesel exhaust fluid at the point of use (2023 Ag Innovation Challenge Winner) and Grain Weevil Corporation, a grain bin safety and management robot that improves farmer well-being by controlling risks and costs (2022 Ag Innovation Challenge Winner). Other examples of successful Ag Innovation Challenge participants, as well as detailed eligibility guidelines and the competition timeline, can be found at fb.org/challenge.
Entrepreneurs must be members of a county or parish Farm Bureau within their state of residence to qualify as top 10 semi-finalists. Arizona applicants who are not Farm Bureau members can visit Arizona Farm Bureau's webpage and join online to become a member.
Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on May 12.