A lively round of competition is expected when four national finalists pitch their business ideas to a team of judges during the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 96th Annual Convention and IDEAg Trade Show in San Diego in January. A live feed of the finals competition will be available starting at 10:45 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, Jan. 11, at fb.org/ruraldevelopment.

The four finalists will each win $15,000 and vie to win the title Rural Entrepreneur of the Year for an additional $15,000, and the Peoples’ Choice Award for $10,000 more. The challenge will provide the finalists with prize money totaling $85,000 to implement their ideas.

The Rural Entrepreneur of the Year will be announced in the afternoon on Monday, Jan. 12.

AFBF, together with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business Global Social Enterprise Initiative and the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative’s StartupHoyas, announced the four national finalists in November. The challenge provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations being developed in rural regions of the United States.

The finalist businesses competing in January were chosen from more than 200 applicants:

Golden Bridges, Inc., serves Northeast Missouri and West Central Illinois, offering customized moving and relocation services. The company specializes in helping seniors transition from farms to more manageable housing in rural America. Team lead: Suzanne Ellerbrock;

Pasturebird, LLC, hails from California and offers a system to produce pastured poultry on a larger scale. Their low-cost method of rotational grazing enables farmers to raise healthy, pastured chicken, while also enriching their land. Team lead: Paul Greive;

Virginia-based Pulaski Grow plans to use aquaponics technology to provide fresh, local produce and fish to the community throughout the year. As part of the business, Pulaski Grow will provide training for youth to become innovative employees, managers and entrepreneurs. Team lead: Lee Spiegel; and

ScoutPro, Inc., of Iowa develops and deploys mobile crop scouting software for farmers and crop scouts. Scouts use the software when identifying weeds, insects, diseases and disorders common to corn and soybean production. Team lead: Michael Koenig.

“As most of us look forward to relaxing with family and friends over the holidays, the finalists are preparing to pitch their business ideas before a team of judges—and a live audience—in San Diego in January,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “Rural entrepreneurs from across the nation brought their ‘A’ game to this competition. We can all learn something from their great ideas for successful businesses in local communities.”

The Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge is a key component of the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, a joint effort between AFBF and the Georgetown McDonough School of Business. The Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative is directly tied to AFBF’s mission of building strong and prosperous agricultural communities.

“The challenge provides seed money to help entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level,” said Jeff Reid, founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative. “These growing businesses can make a huge difference in small rural communities.”

For more information about the challenge or the finalists, contact Cyndie Sirekis at cyndies@fb.org or Brynn Boyer at Brynn.boyer@georgetown.edu.