Natalie Willis, Reporter, Valley Ag Voice
Agriculture technology is becoming increasingly important for improved efficiency and output, but the adoption of ag-tech products is slow, according to a global ag-tech adoption survey. However, data from the National Venture Capital Association’s Venture Monitor indicated that ag-tech startups received $6.1 billion in venture capital investments in 2020 — roughly a 60% increase over 2019.
As a leader in ag-tech adoption, the U.S. is offering several incentives for new technological innovations in 2024, with a notable geographic focus on the Central Valley.
One innovation challenge in California is targeted at improving efficiency for small farmers and invites all potential innovators to attend regardless of age or qualification. The Community Alliance with Family Farmers is accepting applications for the 2024 Small Farm Innovation Challenge until November 15 — tech-based innovations for small-scale agricultural operations are eligible to receive up to $10,000.
Ag-tech applicants are required to introduce solutions for small-scale farm operations that will promote local food economies in California. The challenge offers three separate categories — DIY, software, and hardware. Guidelines for each category are included on the application website.
One winner from each category is selected to represent the small farm agricultural sector. An award ceremony will take place at the Small Farm Tech Expo in Fresno, California, in March.
The University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Department opened applications for its Farm Robotics Challenge for teams of students from universities and colleges in the U.S. to tackle real-world farming challenges. The VINE organizes the competition, an initiative of UC ANR, as well as farm-ng, F3 Innovate, and the AI Institute for Next-Gen Food Systems.
This year, the competition opened a new division for two-year colleges to participate. Small-farm applications are the targeted audience for this year’s competition, as well as the integration of robotics into agricultural research.
In a press release, UC ANR chief innovation officer Gabe Youtsey explained that the competition is intended to cultivate the next generation of leaders in agricultural technology.
“By participating in this challenge, students are not only showcasing their technical skills but also contributing to a larger mission — advancing sustainable and efficient farming practices for the future,” Youtsey said. “We’re incredibly excited to see the solutions that these young entrepreneurs will bring to the table.”
The competition offers various award categories, including grand prize, elegance in design, complexity, and small farm solutions. Team formations must be submitted by Oct. 31, and proposals are due by Nov. 15.
FARM BUREAU INNOVATION CHALLENGE
The American Farm Bureau Federation announced its top 10 teams in the 2024 Farm Bureau Ag Innovation Challenge, spotlighting start-up companies with an emphasis on advancing agricultural technology.
UAV-IQ Precision Agriculture is the only finalist out of California. Veteran-owned and operated, the company provides drone-based solutions for biological pest control. Its BioDrop innovation releases beneficial insects and mites throughout commercial farms.
Each semi-finalist was awarded $10,000 and has the potential to increase their total at the AFBF Convention on Jan. 19. The final four teams will compete again for up to $50,000.