Purple Plow Challenge



The Purple Plow Challenge encourages students grades 5-12 to research scenarios related to food, hunger and sustainability and build their own prototypes to solve the defined problem. Resources provided for facilitators, students and volunteers are written by teachers, aligned to national learning standards and reviewed by industry experts.


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Current Challenge:

Room to Grow

The world population is growing at a rate of 1.13% per year. The current average population change is estimated at around 80 million per year (www.worldometers.info). The expanding population is creating less and less growing space and there is a need for year-round production. There are limitations of available resources due to the factors of this growth. Around the world, there are remote locations with limited resources to allow for climatically controlled growing. Individuals in large urban areas struggle with finding the space to grow food.

Challenge Question:

How can you contribute locally to the impact problems, such as population growth, limited space for growing food, access to resources, and year-round plant-based food production? What type of growing structure would help reduce the effects of a global or national problem such as the ones listed above?

Past challenges:

Go with the Flow

When water flows over land, it is called surface runoff, and it is an important part of the water cycle, but have you ever wondered where your runoff is running off to? What’s in your runoff? What is the runoff doing to the environment once it has settled? Around the world, there are more than 400 dead zones in oceans and lakes, where the water contains so little oxygen that aquatic life can no longer survive. In this challenge, students will learn about the impact of runoff in rural and urban areas and its effects on the environment as well as plan for solutions to this growing issue of dead zones, hypoxia, and overall water quality.

Growing Green 

Farms consume energy both directly through the use of diesel, electricity, propane, natural gas and renewable fuels as well as in directly through the use of fuel in the production of fertilizers, pesticides and feedstock. In this challenge, students will learn about energy in various forms, build and share a solution that diversifies energy consumption.

Protect the Pollinators

Due to multiple global factors, the pollinator population is decreasing causing problems for our food system. Through this challenge, students will become more aware of the important role pollinators play in our daily lives and how to help protect the various populations. After thoughtful research, students will design, test and demonstrate a solution that will sustain or improve pollinator well-being.

Cattle Ranch Riddle

Every day, cattle ranching families are trying to raise a healthy and safe product, while maintaining a profitable business and being stewards of natural resources. How will you construct a model of a cattle ranch that addresses these concerns?

Farm to Food Truck Challenge

Americans enjoy an affordable and abundant food supply thanks to farming and ranching families. Every year, one U.S. farm feeds 168 people. How does that food get from the farm to our plates? What people are involved in the process? Learn the story behind our food firsthand by designing a farm to food truck!

Save the Soil! 

In the United States alone, we are losing at least 3 billion tons of topsoil a year to erosion! Without topsoil, our land becomes a desert and is not capable of producing food. Students will design, test, and demonstrate a solution that reduces topsoil erosion for their unique location or situation to help conserve prodcutive soil. 

See other past challenges. Facilitator guides, student guides and content guides are available for past challenges!


Short on time? Also make sure to check out the Purple Plow Puzzlers!


Puzzlers are hands-on STEM activities that can be completed in 1-2.5 hours. Puzzlers sharpen critical and creative thinking through agricultural-related activities. They follow the “create, test & improve, and share” steps in the Purple Plow engineering design process


The Purple Plow Challenge is special project brought to you by The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (AFBFA) and made possible through generous support of our title sponsor, Corteva Agriscience.