Ag innovation challenge application being accepted

Published 10:30 am Saturday, July 2, 2022

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Farmers and rural entrepreneurs can win up to $30,000 through a new competition sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability.

The organization has introduced its 2022 Agricultural and Forestry Innovation Challenge for businesses to showcase ideas or products that could benefit Virginia’s agriculture and forestry sectors. The competition also will be known as the “Bull Pen.”

Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, of which VA FAIRS is an affiliate, said the competition was created out of a need to increase rural entrepreneurs’ access to project funding.

“VA FAIRS encounters many entrepreneurs who have excellent and innovative business ideas,” Banks said. “Oftentimes there aren’t traditional grants or loan programs available to help get these ideas or new enterprises off the ground or advance them to the next step. The Bull Pen will help serve these entrepreneurial endeavors in a number of ways.”

The competition is intended to promote innovation and facilitate entrepreneurship that supports Virginia agriculture and forestry.

Additionally, Banks noted the Agricultural and Forestry Innovation Challenge will provide applicants with learning experiences like pitching their ideas to industry leaders.

It also will allow applicants to earn publicity for their ideas, participate in networking opportunities and compete for valuable cash prizes.

Contestants will vie for up to $30,000 in total cash prizes, which winners can use to implement their business ideas or new enterprises.

Up to five finalists will each receive $2,500, a runner-up will receive $5,000 and the contest winner will take home $10,000. A People’s Choice Award winner also will receive $2,500.

VA FAIRS will select up to five finalists to compete in two in-person judging rounds Nov. 28-29 at The Greenbrier® in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The second round will be held in front of an audience at the 2022 VFBF Annual Convention, and winners will be announced during that event on Nov. 29.

“We are very excited to sponsor this challenge,” Banks said. “Virginia is home to many talented people with incredible business ideas that can help strengthen communities and their local economies, as well as Virginia agriculture and forestry.”

The application period for the competition began June 1 and concludes at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 15.

To enter, applicants must complete and email their application package to A complete application package must include an application form, a video pitch, photos of applicants’ business and a completed IRS Form W-9.