Iowa State University Extension and Outreach county offices are recruiting and assembling teams of teens for the new 4-H Youth Development program, AgOvation.

AgOvation is a research-based competition that challenges youth to explore and develop innovative, science-based solutions to agricultural problems facing their home communities. The competition requires each team, made up of two to five youth in grades 7-12, to create a project then deliver a public presentation that demonstrates results and solutions to the specifically designed problem.

Each team will be overseen by an adult coach and a mentor from an agricultural field closely related to the project. The competition encourages youth to connect with representatives from Iowa State University and the agribusiness community. 

The top three teams will be awarded scholarship money for post-secondary education.

“One of the consistent themes I hear when talking to industry representatives is the challenge of talent acquisition in today’s rapidly changing world of agriculture,” said Ben Pullen, Iowa 4-H youth program specialist working to implement the new program. “AgOvation helps solve this problem by providing youth with the opportunity to develop career skills as they research and develop solutions to what they feel are relevant problems in agriculture.

“Our hope is that AgOvation will use 4-H’s roots of youth-adult partnerships and empower youth to reach their full potential, then connect that with the needed interest areas, abilities and workforce needs of the 21st century,” Pullen said.

Well-mastered skills in the fields of agriculture and biosciences are critical to finding solutions to current challenges facing the United States, such as economic growth and stability, food security, human health and environmental sustainability, Pullen said. The AgOvation program aims to prepare youth for handling these future problems by emphasizing essential life skills, public speaking, lifelong learning and leadership skills, as well as exemplifying opportunities in agricultural science, engineering and technology.

The AgOvation program will begin with team registry in January and February 2019. During summer and early fall of 2019, regional competitions will take place and be completed by Sept. 15. State finals will be held in October in Ames.

County offices and youth are encouraged to sign up for the new program. 

For more information, contact Cayla Taylor via email at 

Interested youth should contact the local county extension office.