Tools and technology can help farmers improve efficiency, save labor and connect with their customers. But many of the innovations in agriculture today are built for large-scale production, out of reach for most family farms and contribute to mono-cropping, ecological degradation and consolidation in the industry. Here in America, despite our technological progress, we lose 4 farms a day, the average age of farmers has crept up to nearly 60 years old and in 2017, over 50% of farms reported negative net income. Coupled with a “get big or get out” ideology, much of this progress has left smaller farms behind to the detriment of rural economies, social equity and even the health, sustainability and quality of our food.



Whether you’re an engineer or just a crafty farmer, a startup or a team of grad students, this year we’re challenging you to develop a new innovation that can help smaller-scale farms compete, survive and thrive. From hardware to software, mechanical harvesters to marketing apps, we’re seeking proposals for technologies that will help level the playing field, strengthen local food systems and promote on-farm sustainability. As part of this year’s Small Farm Tech Expo in Sonoma County, CA, submissions will be evaluated by a panel of judges representing farmers, investors, entrepreneurs and the tech industry. Winners will be showcased at our event on December 9, 2019 as well as at several agricultural conferences, in video and online with the aim of helping you make your bright idea a reality.


  • Proposals must be submitted before October 31st, 2019
  • Challenge is open to individuals, teams, students and start-up businesses
  • All designs and intellectual property will remain with submitters. Elements of your proposal may be kept confidential so long as viability is demonstrated within your proposal. Patents encouraged where needed.
  • Winner and two runners up will be announced on December 9th, 2019​
  • Proposals will be accepted in any phase of development, however the more fully-fleshed out a proposal is (business plan, prototype, etc.) the better chances of winning. 
All challenge entrants will be provided the results of our farm tech needs survey, feedback from California-based farms explaining their challenges and interests.
Submissions will be judged based on the following attributes:
  • Promotes the economic viability of smaller-scale farm businesses
  • Novelty
  • Financially accessible to small farm budgets
  • Adaptability to a variety of farm systems and circumstances
  • Promotes ecologically sustainable farm practices
  • Repairable / adjustable by user
  • Enables direct sales and local food systems
  • Maintains farm autonomy; avoids dependence, monopolization
  • Long-term relevance
  • Compatibility with diverse crop systems
  • Ease of use


Harvesting tools
Planting tools
Soil management
Monitoring: soil moisture, nitrogen, etc.
Sales: CSA, online markets, wholesale tracking
Wash & Pack
Record Keeping

Irrigation & water systems
On-farm energy
Season extension
Livestock / grazing management tools
Crop storage
Weeding tools
Poultry equipment

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Fill out the below form to register for the Challenge. This is NOT the final submission. After completing this form you will receive updates, an invite to the official application and be provided the results of our farm tech needs survey to help guide your project.


Founded in 1978, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and The Farmers Guild is a California-based nonprofit that builds sustainable food and farming systems through local and statewide policy advocacy and on-the-ground programs in an effort to initiate institutionalized change.

For more information, contact Evan Wiig at and 415-710-5692