Agri-energy, the new era of agriculture

The Agri-Entrepreneurship Awards honor FFA members who recognize market opportunities and develop solid business plans which capitalize on them. Awards are available at the chapter, state and national levels.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

All Agri-Entrepreneurship Award applicants will receive a rating of bronze, silver, gold, or national winner. Ten National Agri-Entrepreneurship Award winners are selected annually. Each winner receives a $1,000 award and is recognized onstage during the National FFA Convention. The winners’ projects are also featured in a booth at the National FFA Agricultural Career Show. The winners’ FFA chapters also receive a $500 grant to help them promote entrepreneurship in their agriculture programs.

The Agri-Entrepreneurship Program is sponsored by USDA Rural Development as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

Here is a profile on one of this year’s 10 winners…

Brannon Agri-Energy
Name: Caleb Jay Brannon
Age: 15
Chapter: Calloway County FFA
Parents: Dr. Tony L. Brannon and Ms. Lisa Brannon
Advisor: Jacob Falwell and Bill Sampson

Caleb Jay Brannon of Puryear, Tenn., has a family history steeped in farming and the entrepreneurial spirit. So it’s no surprise that the Calloway County FFA freshman created a business that is on the cutting-edge of technology utilizing agriculture.

With gas and electricity prices continuing to rise and society continually talking about green initiatives, Brannon thought it was an ideal time for him to export agricultural-related energy enterprises. He formed Brannon Agri-Energy, an emerging technology, farm-related business that grows and markets switchgrass for bio mass and future cellulosic ethanol production.

“I have always been interested in the green agri-energy movement,” Brannon said. “I would eventually like to use my switchgrass to develop and attract a cellulosic ethanol or other large bio-based industry in our area.”

Brannon established 15 acres of Alamo switchgrass in a grant opportunity through Genera-Agri-Energy and for four years, the company bought switchgrass at the end of the production year. He cooperated with Memphis BioWorks to grow three acres of energy beets and small plots of sweet sorghum and energy sorghum. The beets can be used for cattle feed and production of sugar-based ethanol, and the sweet sorghum and energy sorghum crops have a potential to develop as a major annual crop to support sugar-based ethanol production and biomass production.

He currently markets his switchgrass in small square bales through James Sanders Nursery in Paducah, Ky.

Located in close proximity to both the Kentucky and Tennessee border, Brannon points out this has been advantageous. “I have the unique location to take advantage of production and marketing on both sides of the state line,” he said.

Brannon says his goal is for his entrepreneurship business to serve as a spark to get the fire going in the new era of agriculture that includes biofuels, biomass and bio-based products. Upon graduation, he plans to attend college and obtain a degree in agricultural emerging technology.

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