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Check out Farm Next for innovations in ag

Pivot Bio’s innovators will share their stories at Husker Harvest Days.

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You’ve seen them on TV, now hear from them in person at Husker Harvest Days: the ag entrepreneurs of Farm Next.

For the second year in a row, Pivot Bio is partnering with Farm Progress to help identify innovative startups and offer them a platform for telling their stories.

“Pivot Bio is all about innovation and good storytelling,” says Petar Madjarac, manager of international markets for Pivot Bio. “Innovation helps farmers. They’re facing so many challenges, and it will take a lot of technology and innovation to overcome those challenges.”

It was the “Shark Tank” of agriculture: Nine companies presented their concepts to a panel of judges, with the top winner taking home $50,000. Farmers also got to vote for their favorite innovative idea.

“That can make a difference for these early startups and help them realize their vision,” Madjarac says.

The panel presentations were featured in a series of special programs on RFD-TV from July 10 to Aug. 21, hosted by broadcaster Max Armstrong. Each episode featured three companies. Semifinalists advanced through a combination of panel judging and viewer voting. The three semi-finalists were featured in a deeper dive into their businesses, with the top winner named.

A look at the innovators

All nine innovators will be featured at Husker Harvest Days, Sept. 12-14, next to the Pivot Bio exhibit. They will also share insights, along with a Q&A session, on the Husker Harvest Days Stage in the Hospitality Tent daily at 11 a.m. They are:

Bloomfield Robotics. The company uses artificial intelligence paired with an innovative camera for crop management. The tech is currently focused on vineyard crops. Visit

Leaftech Ag. This innovator has created a hand-held tissue testing tool that can provide growers crop tissue testing results in real-time for their farms. Visit

Haber Technologies. This startup created the Dri-Stack system for grain drying and automated in-bin care. See

Lepidext. Corn earworm is trouble, but this firm has discovered a virus that controls the pest. Visit

Phinite. Manure management gets a new approach — a constructed wetland — that works for swine and dairy farms. Visit

ALA Engineering. The company automates livestock management, primarily for beef, to maximize time, equipment and labor resources. Visit

ReEnvision Ag. Imagine a planter that can move into fields days earlier and provide precise seed placement. This is the focus for this innovator. Visit

Sentinel Fertigation. This innovator combines precise satellite imagery with fertigation control to maximize nitrogen use. Visit

Farmers Risk. Crop marketing is a challenging task, but this company is bringing important tools to allow for improved profit opportunities. Visit

The judging panelists for this year’s contest included:

  • Lisa Peterson, a National FFA officer from Osage, Iowa, provided a grower’s perspective for the panel reviews.

  • Karsten Temme, CEO of Pivot Bio, offered a unique perspective of what it takes to move a company from startup to full commercial scale.

  • Chris Abbott, co-head of Conti Ventures, helped evaluate innovators for investment potential.

About the Author(s)

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

Holly Spangler

Prairie Farmer Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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