Student Ag Innovators Compete for $215,000 in Prizes!

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What’s the one thread that ties all humans together? The need to eat!

The social, nutritional and cultural importance of food in our society should never be underemphasized. Yet until now, there was no major student competition in the world focused specifically on rewarding agricultural innovation.

That changed a few short weeks ago when the Agricultural Innovation Prize, powered by “40 Chances,” was launched in Washington D.C. The Howard G Buffett foundation has teamed up with the University of Wisconsin Madison to commit $215,000 to students who can demonstrate innovative ways to address challenges in agriculture and food systems. Students nationwide are eligible. Please visit full contest details and other information about the competition.

Students and volunteers, the Agricultural Innovation Prize also needs your help!

If you are a student, the time to begin is now. We need you to document your innovation to improve agriculture by the deadline of February 28, 2014, using a two-page description and no more than 10 slides that explain your idea.

Student teams should develop innovative plans to also address social and agricultural challenges within food systems, and improving the standard of living and quality of life for the world’s population.

From these proposals, the top 25 ideas will be selected and those students will compete in Madison, Wisconsin on April 25.

The Agricultural Innovation Prize will be providing stipends to cover travel costs and the contest itself is free to enter. If you don't have an idea yet, you can still help spread the word about the contest and about all the ways to address the challenges we face in agriculture through our Ambassador program.

Ambassadors are eligible for as much as $1,000 to help raise awareness on college campuses. Interested students can submit proposals for events to host to drive interest in agriculture and food systems by visiting the Ambassadors program page on the website.

There are roles to play for non-students as well. If you’re a professional, you can raise awareness through your company or associated university. Imagine if you inspired a team to enter the contest and their ideas earned them a top prize of $100,000!

The competition also needs mentors and judges to critically evaluate the proposals from the top 25 teams and help them hone and improve their ideas to ensure they have the greatest impact and provide the most benefit. All of the ways to become involved are described in detail on our website.

In his new book, 40 Chances, Finding Hope in a Hungry World, Howard Buffett says that each of us has about 40 productive years to do the best job we can, whatever our passions or goals may be, just as farmers can expect to have about 40 growing seasons to improve the quality of what they grow. We hope the Agricultural Innovation Prize is part of that drive toward excellence for many students who have a passion for improving food and agriculture.

Chris Meyer is the program coordinator for the Agricultural Innovation Prize at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.