With community-scaled ingenuity at heart, the winners of this year’s Small Farm Innovation Challenge offer solutions for local agriculture. In its second year, the Challenge sought submissions from around the world for innovations that can help solve the unique challenges facing small farms and local food systems.
First place winners for the Entrepreneurial track include, for the hardware category, the Hand-E, an ultra-minimalist, all-electric tractor by Curly’s Ag out of Australia; in the software category, HarvestPath, an end-to-end software management solution for direct-market ranchers, from California-based Richards Grass-fed Beef; and in the DIY track, McGruder Ranch’s No-dig Removable Endpost.
“This is such an important opportunity to tap into the creative concepts that are percolating in the agriculture landscape and share them with the broader community,” said Perri Kramer, one of this year’s judges and Program Director at Food System 6, a business accelerator program. “So many people connected to farming are innovators in their own right but may not know it, or they may be unsure of how to share their innovations with others. This award provides an opportunity for knowledge sharing as well as encouraging individuals with great ideas to double down on their efforts and invest in their innovation.”
Launched by Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), the Innovation Challenge solicited innovators from all backgrounds–farmers, students, entrepreneurs–all with the goal of shifting focus away from big ag and towards empowering the greatest number of farms, even those operating on just an acre or two. And this year’s winners delivered.
While today’s farms, and the equipment needed to run them, are only getting larger, the HandE was designed with small farms in mind, weighing in at under 800 lbs. Yet despite its 48V electric 8HP motor, this nimble machine gives farmers an impressive array of functions, from prepping beds to harvest to lifting hay bales or even autonomous missions controlled remotely.
Similarly, while today’s food industry is dangerously monopolistic–the meat industry above all–HarvestPath was designed to give ranchers more control of their business while marketing directly to consumers. Built by ranchers using the Salesforce platform, this tool assists producers with a variety of management tasks all in one place, including tracking compliance, harvest, inventory, products, sales and reporting.
In addition to the Entrepreneurial Track, this year’s Challenge also included a DIY Track for everyday tinkerers who just want to freely share their homespun innovations with others. This year’s DIY award went to McGruder Ranch for their “No-dig Removable End Post”, a handheld mechanical post-driver making the always arduous task of fence-building easier.
Winner’s of the 2022 Innovation Challenge will receive gifts and cash made possible by Johnny’s Select Seeds and the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Honorable Mention for the “Most Economically Beneficial Innovation” went to the Livestock Yield, Pricing & Margin Tool, created by Olivia Tincani & Co., a simple tool that helps farmers record (or simulate) livestock harvests. Other finalists included Open Food Network USA, Multi Purpose Pasture Pen, and Ecolife Companies Ltd.
“The Innovation Challenge is a wonderful way to engage anyone with a passion for creating solutions to help farmers tackle the many challenges they face,” said Amy Wu, another judge and the Founder of Farms to Incubators, “This competition encourages and inspires creativity and ways to think out of the box. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in tackling climate change, sustainability and who wants to make a difference in agriculture.”
Submissions for next year’s Small Farm Innovation Challenge will open this summer. Stay tuned to Community Alliance with Family Farmers for more information.
2022 Selection Committee members include:
- Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer at UCANR
- George Livingston, Innovation Principal & Manager at Orange Silicon Valley
- Rebecca Frimmer, Entrepreneur in Residence at Kitchen Table Consultants
- David Haynes, Farmer and Founder of Farm Hand Tractor
- Perri Kramer, Program Director at Food System 6
- Amy Wu, Author, Journalist. Founder of Farms to Incubators
- Elizabeth Vaughan, Small Farm Technology Specialist, CAFF
- Hanna Kahl, Ecological Pest Management Specialist, CAFF
- Evan Wiig, Director of Communications & Membership at CAFF