Ag-Corps Teams Engage in Customer Discovery at 2022 AFBF Convention
Last month, UNY I-Corps offered Ag-Corps at AFBF, an NSF I-Corps regional course for innovators focused on developing impactful technologies within the agriculture space. Eight research teams participated in the hybrid course, which began virtually in December, and then shifted to an in-person format at the 2022 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) Annual Convention & Trade Show in Atlanta, Georgia from January 7-9.
At AFBF, the teams received additional training from the Ag-Corps instructors, before immersing themselves in the convention to conduct 30 customer discovery interviews. The class reconvened virtually a week later to present their findings and discuss next steps. The teams received microgrants of up to $3,000 from the UNY I-Corps Node for travel expenses to the convention.
This is the second time the AFBF has hosted Ag-Corps—the first time was at its 2020 convention in Austin, TX. The organization provided meeting space at the convention for conducting Ag-Corps sessions. They also welcomed the teams with complimentary registration and access to onsite networking events, including a reception for the Ag Innovation Challenge, a national business competition that showcases U.S. startups developing innovative solutions that address challenges facing America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.
“Farm Bureau is proud to support the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program by connecting Ag-Corps participants to the AFBF community and the Ag Innovation Challenge. These ag entrepreneurs are developing innovative solutions that will help farmers and ranchers overcome challenges as they fulfill their mission to stock America’s pantries,” said Emma Larson, Assistant Director of Industry Relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The teams that participated in this year’s Ag-Corps regional course included:
- Agcess (Somil Aggarwal – Cornell University) is providing SMS and light web platform insights for farmers to bridge the technological gap and offer inclusive information.
- Equilibrate (Jake Simmons – Cornell University) is developing technology to combine hardware and mobile application that detects equine lameness in horses.
- Fly Team (Alden Smith, Harry Ha and Peter Hogya – Rochester Institute of Technology) is building a semi-industrial black soldier fly organic waste bioreactor that can be used to reduce waste and extract valuable materials.
- Orchard Robotics (Charles Wu – Cornell University) is working on automation of orchard harvesting using high-fidelity, multi-view, real-time 3D reconstruction of orchards.
- Plant Boosters (Nwadiuto Esiobu, Ojdre Sutherland and Karim Dawkins – Florida Atlantic University) is improving the resilience of citrus plants using microbial inoculants through cutting-edge metagenomics and functional genomics technologies.
- Radical Shoots LLC (Donovan Taylor and James Valencia – Vanderbilt University) is developing an automated greenhouse capable of producing microgreens and herbs with innovation in data collection, automation, and machine learning.
- StableCoupons, Inc (Ken Chester – New York City, NY) is facilitating an itemized CSA alternative to increase the prepaid revenues of farmers.
- W2O Fertilizers (Fred Agyeman – SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry) is developing a slow-release, organic, granular fertilizer with high N-P rating extracted from industrial wastewater.
Participants in the Ag-Corps regional course were instructed by Gregory Ray (Cornell University; UNY I-Corps Node) and Melissa Heffner, (VentureLab at Georgia Institute of Technology; I-Corps South Node), both experienced entrepreneurial leaders and I-Corps instructors.
“In programs such as Ag-Corps, where the Lean Startup method is taught and participants are then asked to turn right around and put the method into practice by engaging customers, the speed of learning increases tenfold,” said Heffner. “These eight teams quickly progressed from having a rough idea about how their solution could provide value to folks in the agriculture space, to then having conversations with farm managers, orchard growers, or veterinarians, for instance, which expanded each participant’s understanding of the problem space and how best to innovate an effective solution. There were a number of ‘Ah-ha!’ moments throughout the weekend and the excitement was palpable each time a team uncovered a new nugget of information about their customer’s pain points, jobs-to-be-done, and needs.”
For more information on upcoming UNY I-Corps Node regional courses, please visit: https://www.unyicorps.org/regional-courses