A northwest Iowa entrepreneur has been selected as one of 10 semi-finalists in the 2021 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge. 

Bill Brown of Insulights.com continues Iowa’s strong representation in the ag entrepreneur contest, which showcases ideas and business innovations in agriculture. Teams from Iowa have won top honors in the AFBF contest in four of the six years it has been held.

As a semifinalist, Brown won $7,500 and will compete at the American Farm Bureau Convention on Jan. 8, 2021.

“The hard-working entrepreneurs recognized (as semifinalists) are committed to providing solutions for some of the biggest challenges facing agriculture,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. 

Insulights are electric fence post insulators equipped with a light that flashes with the pulse of electricity, allowing farmers and ranchers to see if the fence is operating simply by looking down the fence line.

“We got tired of checking the fence and getting out of the truck. We got tired of the highway patrolman stopping at our house and saying your cows are out, or waking up in the morning and our horses were on the front porch,” said Brown, who lives in Akron. 

He’s also working on enhancing Insulights with technology that would send a text message to the owner if the fence is not operating.

This year’s top 10 semi-finalist teams in the Ag Innovation Challenge 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.

At the AFBF convention, four finalists will be selected to receive an additional $7,500 and compete live on stage in front of Farm Bureau members, investors and industry representatives for the title of Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year. A People’s Choice award winner will also be selected.

Other semifinalists are: AgriHoodBaltimore of Baltimore, Maryland; Agro Empresas Black Belt of Coamo, Puerto Rico; Arbre Technologies Inc. of Stevens Point, Wisconsin; BoldCypress LLC of Oran, Missouri; Butter Meat Co. of Perry, New York; Harvust of Walla Walla, Washington; Parasanti of Thrall, Texas; Row Shaver Systems LLC of Great Bend, Kansas; and TerraClear Inc. of Grangeville, Idaho. 

Last year, three Iowa teams were among the 10 semi-finalists and Rantizo, an Iowa City company that is pioneering the use of drones to spray crops, advanced to the final four.

Previous Iowa winners of the competition included FarmlandFinder, ScoutPro, AccuGrain and SwineTech.

The Ag Innovation Challenge is a partnership between the American Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Credit to advance ag innovation by supporting start-ups from across the country. Other sponsors include Bayer Crop Science, Farm Bureau Bank, Farm Bureau Financial Services, FMC Corporation and John Deere.

To learn more about the contest and the 10 semifinalist teams, visit fb.org/challenge.