By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
GeoAir, one of the start-ups that recently completed the inaugural “AgWorks” accelerator hosted by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, has just made it three years in a row for a University of Tennessee (UT)-connected team to make the national finals of the “Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge.”
The company, founded by Alex Adams, is focused on helping farmers manage mold, a problem that destroys one-third of arable crops. GeoAir’s mold location technology allows farmers to employ a proactive risk management program that enables spot elimination of the mold before it damages the crops.
In an announcement made earlier this week in Washington, DC, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) announced the top 10 teams – four finalists, one of which was GeoAir, and six “best-in-show winners.” The finals are set for January 7 as part of AFBF’s 99th annual convention in Nashville.
There were 471 applicants, and the four finalists were each awarded $15,000. In addition to GeoAir, the others are: Hawk Knob of Lewisburg, WV; SwineTech Inc. of Oskaloosa, IA; and Wild Valley Farms of Croydon, UT.
We caught-up with Adams yesterday afternoon in Washington where he has been since Sunday. To say he was ecstatic would be an understatement.
“It’s validation we are going down the right path,” he said. “Being in the top one percent of the people in the competition is amazing.”
We first spotlighted Adams in this 2013 teknovation.biz article discussing Xada, his hammock start-up. Later, he won the fall 2016 “Vol Court Pitch Competition” for his idea for GeoAir as noted in this article. Adams has continued to perfect the latter concept that he described in this post ahead of the “AgWorks Demo Day.”
The young entrepreneur was most complimentary of the Farm Bureau team, taking specific note of the fact that they helped secure a meeting for him with the appropriate Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Manager in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 15 minutes. He also said that he had just completed the inaugural I-Corps South cohort hosted by UT, another beneficial opportunity.
One should take special note of the success of UT-connected teams in the Farm Bureau competition. GeoAir is the third in three years to make the finals. Grow Bioplastics did so in 2016 for the early 2017 finals (see teknovation.biz article here), and FarmSpec did so in 2015 for the 2016 competition (see that teknovation.biz post here).
What’s in it for the winner in January? The start-up selected by a panel of judges as “Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year” will earn an additional $15,000 for a total of $30,000 in prize money. The winner of the “People’s Choice” award, chosen by a public vote, gets an additional $10,000 for a total of $25,000 in prize money.