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Alaska container grower named Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year

Vertical Harvest Hydroponics of Alaska is the American Farm Bureau Federation's Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year, AFBF officials announced in a news release. Team leads Linda Janes and Dan Perpich won AFBF's Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge by beating three other teams from across the nation. AFBF announced the winner at its 2017 Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in Phoenix.

Janes and Perpich took home a total of $30,000 in prize money, including $15,000 from sponsor Farm Bureau Bank to produce hydroponic vegetables housed in 40 insulated shipping containers.

The four finalists each received $15,000 in October for advancing in the competition.

Garnering 73 percent of the vote, Levrack of Nebraska won the People's Choice award in the competition and an additional $10,000 in prize money. Levrack produces efficient storage systems for farm shops. Members of the live audience at the finals competition and members of the general public voted online to select the People's Choice winner. Ryan Stauffer, Austin Stauffer and Peter Miller were team leads for Levrack.

Windcall Manufacturing of Nebraska, led by Martin Bremmer, and Grow Bioplastics of Tennessee, led by Tony Bova, were the other two finalists who competed in the final round of the challenge in Phoenix.

"Innovation and entrepreneurship have always been essential ingredients in the success of America's farmers and ranchers," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. "From the adoption of new business models and the development of new tools and services, to unique adaptations of technology in agriculture, our industry is driven by people with vision who are willing to step forward with fresh ideas. Recognizing their achievements supports a spirit that will drive agriculture and rural America forward."

The final four teams competed for the award by pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges before a live audience. The finalist businesses were chosen from 356 applicants.

"As a provider of financial services to rural America, Farm Bureau Bank understands the economic potential of rural communities," said William Hileman, president and CEO. "We are proud to help sponsor the Farm Bureau Challenge. This competition is a great way to highlight the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit of rural America."

The challenge, now in its third 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 businesses. The top challenge teams were selected by 40 judges with expertise in business development, equity investment funding management, agribusiness lending and entrepreneurial coaching.

Semi-finalists in the competition were awarded $10,000 each in October, thanks to the generous sponsorship of Farm Credit Council. They are: Demeter Inc., Irwin, Ohio; Farmzie, Raleigh, North Carolina; Gardens 4 Education, Hanford, California; Inland Sea Company LLC, Ames, Iowa; Lowcountry Street Grocery, Charleston, South Carolina; and Performance Livestock Analytics Inc., Osage, Iowa.

"Entrepreneurs - whether on the farm or in the community - are the lifeblood of the rural economy," said Todd Van Hoose, CEO, Farm Credit Council. "That's why we're excited to partner again with the Farm Bureau for the third annual Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge. This competition recognizes and awards the best and brightest start-ups focused on supporting rural communities and agriculture. We look forward to following the progress of these talented individuals and wish them the best."

The top 10 challenge teams were selected by 15 judges with expertise in business development, agribusiness lending and entrepreneurial coaching.

Publication date: 1/11/2017



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