Iowa continues to lead the way in rural entrepreneur development
For the second consecutive year, Iowa will be represented in the final four American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge – this time featuring two companies, AccuGrain and AgriSync. AFBF President Bob Stallman announced the top 10 finalists today in Washington, D.C. and the final four that will compete during the next phase of the challenge.
AccuGrain (pictured above with Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president Craig Hill and Stallman), an agricultural technology entry, uses x-ray technology to inventory flowing grain in real time. AccuGrain’s team lead is Ryan Augustine from Rose Hill. Iowa’s second representative, AgriSync (pictured below with Hill and Stallman), based in Dallas Center and led by Casey Niemann, uses a mobile customer support platform for farmers and is also an agricultural technology entry.
The Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, now in its second year, provides opportunities for individuals to showcase business innovations being developed in rural regions of the U.S. It is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs working on food and agriculture business. During last year’s inaugural entrepreneur competition, ScoutPro, an Iowa-based crop scouting and pest identification technology for smartphones and tablets, was awarded the top honor of Rural Entrepreneur of the Year during the AFBF Annual Convention.
Semifinalists finishing sixth through tenth were awarded $10,000 each, thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Farm Credit Council. The final four teams, chosen from 165 applicants nationwide, were each awarded $15,000. Joining AccuGrain and AgriSync in the next phase of the competition are Farm Specific Technology of Bolivar, Tennessee, and Fedora Malthouse from Village of Shepherd, Michigan.
The four finalists will pitch their business ideas to a team of judges in front of a live audience at AFBF’s 97th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show in Orlando, Florida, in January, with hopes of winning the Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award for an additional $15,000 and the People’s Choice Award for an additional $10,000, totaling prize money of up to $40,000 to implement their ideas.
“Every day, farmer innovators are working on ways to improve the efficiency and productivity of agriculture so we can produce more using fewer resources,” said Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) President Craig Hill. “Rural entrepreneurs face various challenges implementing their innovative ideas including limited options for support such as startup funding, which is up for grabs during AFBF’s competition. It’s also why IFBF started the Renew Rural Iowa program and Rural Vitality Fund nine years ago. We want to help those companies succeed and grow in rural Iowa.”
“We are extremely proud of how our Iowa entrepreneurs have performed during the first two Rural Entrepreneur Challenges,” Hill continued. “Farmers are natural innovators and continuously look for ways to improve their practices. With ScoutPro (pictured) taking home the top prize last year and two of the top four finalists this year hailing from Iowa, we are encouraged by the innovation and creativity occurring in our state. It shows you don’t need to be from Silicon Valley or a major city to have a successful startup venture.”
“With nearly 90 percent of Iowa farmers also working off farm for supplemental employment, Iowa Farm Bureau recognizes the need for strong, vibrant rural communities,” said IFBF Economic Development Administrator Sandy Ehrig. “Since its launch in 2006, the IFBF Renew Rural Iowa program has helped more than 2,500 entrepreneurs start or grow their business and have held more than 45 seminars connecting entrepreneurs with business mentors and financial resources. Additionally, we’ve had the privilege of mentoring and working with last year’s Rural Entrepreneur Challenge award winner, ScoutPro, as well as this year’s two semifinalists from Iowa, AccuGrain and AgriSync.Renew Rural Iowa (RRI) is an IFBF initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring, and financial resources. The next Renew Rural Iowa Business Success Seminar, “The Journey to Your Vision,” takes place November 10 at the Iowa Farm Bureau Auditorium in West Des Moines. For more information, go to www.renewruraliowa.com.