The Van Trump Report

Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge Shines Spotlight on Rural Entrepreneurship

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and Farm Credit have announced the 10 semi-finalist teams in the 2024 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. The challenge is a partnership between the two organizations that showcases U.S. startups developing innovative solutions that address challenges facing America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Launched in 2015, The Challenge was the first national business competition of its kind focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs.

As AFBF President Zippy Duvall explains, 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. This year, Farm Bureau will award a total of $165,000 in startup funds throughout the competition, including the grand prize of $50,000 that will go to the 2024 Ag Innovation Challenge Winner. The contest will culminates at a live pitch competition and networking event at the AFBF Convention in January 2024 in Salt Lake City, UT.

As usual, this year’s finalists are a diverse bunch that are developing technologies to tackle a wide range of issues. While they can’t all be grand prize winners, they are all worth a mention and could maybe even solve some problems on your own farm! Below are this year’s finalists and a little information about their businesses. Note that we couldn’t find a website or any information about one of the finalists, New York-based Udder Ways, LLC.  

Anu, IndianaPreviously called “gropod”, Anu was established six years ago by two undergraduate students in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute who were working on a NASA-funded research study at Purdue University. The research sought to optimize the photosynthetic efficiency of growing lettuce in a controlled-environment hydroponic chamber for astronauts to grow crops more efficiently in space. Co-founders Scott Massey and Ivan Ball used that research to developed what they call the ‘Rotary Aeroponic Cultivation Chamber’ a hydroponic appliance designed for home use.  

Appanoose Manufactured Products, IowaFire fighter-owned Appanoose Manufactured Products (AMP) designs and builds firefighting equipment with a specific focus on Ultra High Pressure (UHP) systems that can quickly extinguish a fire using a limited water supply. The portable units can be mounted in the back of a utility vehicle or pickup. The pumps can also double as power washers. Check out a video of the company’s ‘F520 Farm Skid’ in action at a hay bale fire HERE.
Barn Owl Precision Agriculture, Colorado Owl began by flying drones and other imagery to help get field data to farmers for faster decision-making. Now, they combine that imagery with a fleet of autonomous weeding robots as a service.

Idem Irrigation, Nebraska  – This center-pivot irrigation company has developed an innovative sprinkler head technology eliminates drift, ensures uniform mixing for each spraying head, and reduces nitrogen overuse. The company claims it technology allows farmers to achieve cost savings of up to 90% in application expenses.

ReproHealth Technologies, Indiana Formed in 2018, ReproHealth Technologies is dedicated to the development of biomedical technology to advance assisted reproduction in agriculture. According to the company, it utilizes embryology to advance assisted reproduction in agriculture, enabling farmers to save time and money while growing their herds and grow them more efficiently.

Secret Garden Bees, North Carolina – According to Secret Garden Bees’ website, the Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business produces premium honey in a premium package on their family farm in Linden, North Carolina. At the heart of its proposition for the AG Innovation Challenge is the concept of a small honey farm that operates without debt while striving for net-zero energy consumption.

Share Farm, Washington– Share Farm says its platform allows buyers to access and request fresh produce, meats, and other food commodities from diverse farmers across the US. The firm also assists in logistics and route optimization.  

Smooth Ag, Texas– Smooth Ag makes the “Ranch Rover”, an autonomous ranch vehicle with the purpose of providing aid to the ranch operation in the form of feeding, livestock monitoring, and data collection. Starting with the Ranch Rover, Smooth Ag’s mission is to produce equipment and the associated technology ranchers need to make a positive impact on the bottom line of their livestock operation.

UAV-IQ Precision Agriculture, California– The veteran-owned and operated business’s stated mission is to revolutionize the agriculture industry by providing innovative drone-based solutions for biological pest control. The company’s ‘BioDrop’ is a drone-performed biological pest control application that releases beneficial insects and mites throughout commercial farms.

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