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EXCLUSIVE: Beef Alliance opens first-of-a-kind startup challenge to give feedlots much-needed tech makeover

December 7, 2020

The US Beef Alliance is holding its first-ever startup challenge in an effort to spur innovation in the technologically orthodox feedlot sector.

The Manhattan, Kansas-based organization counts several of the US’s leading feedyard and related businesses among its membership, including Adams Land & Cattle, AgriBeef, Beef Marketing Group, Beef Northwest Feeders, Biegert Group, Cactus Feeders, Five Rivers Cattle Feeding, Friona Industries, and LaVaca Cattle Co.

Large-scale feedlots have attracted their fair share of controversy in recent years, as consumers and farmers alike become more attuned to the potential animal and human health issues connected to mass livestock feeding operations.

Formed in 2015, the Beef Alliance — which says it represents a quarter of the US fed cattle supply — wants to alleviate these concerns “through collaborative innovation, scientific exploration, and value chain engagement” while protecting the future of the industry.

“As we look at the big challenges we face — whether it’s continuously improving environmental stewardship, finding new ways to care for animals and keep them healthy, or to run efficient and sustainable cattle feedyards — we know we’re going to need innovative solutions,” said Beef Alliance vice chair Scott Whitefoot, who will take over as the group’s chairman at the start of 2021.

“For better or worse, in the beef industry we are really good at putting our heads down and doing our jobs. There are a lot of practices based on years of tradition and past learnings in our industry,” he told AFN.

“While learning from the past is and always will be important, this won’t be a sustainable industry if we’re complacent. The Beef Alliance Startup Challenge is our effort to establish the cattle feeding segment as an attractive space for innovators and investors. [By] hosting this challenge, the Beef Alliance is highlighting areas where our industry needs innovative solutions.”

Cattle feeding businesses have lacked connections to the startups and entrepreneurs that are best placed to help them with technological innovation. The Beef Alliance Startup Challenge is intended to create a space for the two sides to engage more closely with one another.

After making it through initial rounds of selection, Challenge finalists will get the chance to pitch their solutions directly to feedlot decision makers during an online event. The winner will get a cash prize of $50,000 and the opportunity to devise and run a pilot scheme with one of the Beef Alliance’s member companies.

CSIRO and Woolworths recently unveiled FutureFeed, a seaweed supplement that cuts cow methane by 80%. Read more here

The competition is open to any startups that offer a product or service for feedlots, with a focus on areas such as animal health and nutrition, environmental and natural resource management, food safety, livestock monitoring, production efficiency, and traceability – as well as business management tools and technologies that can improve operational efficiency.

“To be successful, a new technology needs to work within the feedyard’s budget and within a variety of weather environments that can be extreme sometimes, and they have to be easily implementable by the men and women who are working within the feedyards.” Whitefoot said.

Startups that wish to participate in the Challenge can be at any stage of development, from pre-revenue to those that have already gone to market – as long as they are making less than $2 million in annualized revenue. Applications are welcome from anywhere in the world, though the eventual winner must have a registered business in the US before claiming their cash prize. (Companies and entrepreneurs interested in applying can do so here.)

“The thing that makes [this Challenge] unique is that when startups pitch to the Beef Alliance, they’re pitching their product directly to their potential customers,” Whitefoot said.

“[It’s] a chance for the customers of technology to directly identify to the creators of technology some of the areas where we see a need for innovation. This event also allows us to give the creators of technology a chance to continue developing their solution in an actual production setting through the pilot.”

Got a news tip? Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter at @jacknwellis

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