Millennial food innovators are pioneering solutions to our biggest food and agriculture challenges. Today, we are excited to introduce the 2016 edition of our Millennial Innovators Uprooting Our Food System series, which profiles the bright, creative and driven university students from around the world that make up Thought For Food (TFF), a next generation food innovation platform (check out last year’s series here). A global community as well as a summit and business competition, TFF empowers breakthrough solutions to feed nine billion people by 2050. During this series, we will highlight the work of the finalist teams from the 2015/16 TFF Challenge who are working to transform our food system.
We chatted with Lincoln, Nebraska-based startup FarmAfield, an online marketplace that pairs individuals interested in participating in agriculture with producers wanting to maximize their efficiency. Using the online investment platform, individuals can make small investments in agricultural inputs and receive returns on the sale of the output. The platform lowers a farmer’s yearly price volatility by diversifying their ownership and risk associated with farming. FarmAfield is currently focusing on cattle investment across the United States, but plans to branch out to other markets.
FarmAfield: Mitch Minarick, one of the members on our founding team witnessed first-hand just how impactful having access to capital can be to small holder farmers in Africa. This experience along with the experiences the other three founding members have had growing up in the Midwest inspired us to look for ways to strengthen farmers as well as get more people involved in agriculture.
There are many people in the United States and in the world who have such a fascination with agriculture and knowing where their food comes from, but they don’t know where to turn to when they want to get involved. FarmAfield opens the door and allows anyone to get in on the action.
FAF: We can lower a farmer’s yearly price volatility through cattle investment. FarmAfield is the online marketplace that pairs individuals interested in participating in agriculture with producers wanting to maximize their efficiency. Those looking to use the FarmAfield marketplace could be those who want to have more of a connection with where their food comes from, as well as grain farmers looking to diversify their operation.
FAF: FarmAfield is disruptive to the beef industry as it changes the way in which capital is accessed. While we’re changing the way things have been done in the past, we want to be an asset to the beef industry as we open the doors for many ranches to have access to previously inaccessible capital.
FAF: FarmAfield was founded by Mitch Minarick with the help of three other founding members: Andrew Minarick, Brennan Costello and Matt Foley in May of 2015. The late Spring and early Summer of 2015, we focused primarily on establishing a network in the Midwest startup community, as well as strengthening roots in the ag community in the Midwest.
In the spring of 2016, FarmAfield launched a trial run of investment transactions to test the viability of allowing outside individuals to become financial vested into agriculture. This trial run totaling over $10,000 in investment gave strong insights to our team and pointed us toward the importance of database development.
This brings us to the SBIR Phase I process we are currently in, which was a grant awarded through the National Science Foundation. This grant focuses on database development for improved agricultural statistics and analysis. We hope that through the successful execution of phase I and phase II of this grant process we will have a much clearer vision of a successful route to what it will take to completely commercialize the FarmAfield marketplace.
FAF: Always ask the question ‘why?’. Nothing should be taken for granted especially in the food and ag space. Some of the best ideas that our generation will come up with in the years to come will come from challenging the status quo and always looking to solve the root of a problem, not just covering it with a bandaid.
FAF: The biggest problem we have faced when developing FarmAfield is the realization that occurs when you come to understand that it is ok to ask for help. The Thought for Food community has opened the doors for so many beneficial connections and before joining we were sometimes hesitant to ask for help. TFF was an incredible growth experience for FarmAfield as a company as well as for each of us personally. We now have access to that great global network that really continues to help FarmAfield take the next steps as we look to grow. We’ve also become much more knowledgeable about utilizing the network we have in our backyard right here in the Midwest.
Sign up for the Thought For Food Challenge by October 31, 2016 – then finalize your teams and submit your bold business solution. This year ten finalist teams have access to $25,000 in cash prizes + extensive in-kind support participate in the TFF Pre Accelerator and win a trip to the TFF Global Summit which will take place in Spring 2017.