'Final Five' Ag Springboard teams to compete Tuesday for $10,000

April 10, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Five student teams pitching new products and services in the agricultural sciences will compete for a $7,500 grand prize Tuesday, April 14, in the Ag Springboard student business pitch competition. One team will win a second prize of $2,500.

The following teams reached the finals of the competition:

-- Team Saffron, led by Nate Hamaker, which proposes using biotechnology to increase saffron production.

-- Bridge the GapSci, led by Kerry Belton, pitching a nonprofit organization to provide scientific laboratory equipment to colleges and universities in developing countries.

-- Protein Station, led by Yangyili Fu, with a concept to sell fresh meals to gym-goers.

-- Blue House, led by Richard Zang, pitching a technology to replicate the transpiration process of passive movement of water through a tree.

-- Team Delivered U, led by Ryan Stein, a proposed food delivery service that focuses on a simple menu.

These five teams will pitch their ideas live to a panel of judges on Tuesday. Winners of the $7,500 grand prize and $2,500 second prize will be announced that evening during the Ag Springboard awards banquet at the Nittany Lion Inn.

"We are very pleased with the quality of the student business presentations and the diversity of ideas," said Mark Gagnon, Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar and entrepreneurship coordinator in the College of Agricultural Sciences. "The ideas represent some compelling opportunities and solutions to some of today's challenges in food, agriculture and biorenewables."

Nina Jenkins, a senior research associate in the college's Department of Entomology who studies safe ways to control pests such as mosquitoes and bed bugs, will deliver the keynote address, titled "A Scientific Entrepreneurial Journey," during Tuesday's awards banquet.

Jenkins, who also is CEO of ConidioTec, will tell the story of her work to commercialize the discovery of a biopesticide spray made of fungal spores found to safely kill bed bugs. Jenkins' team has been working to secure Environmental Protection Agency approval for the spray and are forming a company to market it. The spores infect and stick to bed bugs, which carry them back to hard-to-reach hiding places to infect other bed bugs.

Jenkins and her team have won the top prize at two business-plan competitions in the last two years. In 2013, they won $10,000 following an eight-week boot camp program for aspiring entrepreneurs at the Ben Franklin TechCelerator, followed by a $25,000 first prize for their 10-page business plan submitted to the Ben Franklin Big Idea contest in 2014.

Ag Springboard is a student business pitch competition sponsored by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program in the College of Agricultural Sciences. Students begin with an idea for a new product or service, or for a nonprofit solution to a social problem. They form a team that must include at least one student from the college to develop a pitch around the idea.

In the first round of the Ag Springboard competition, each team submits its pitch as a 10-minute video. The pitch details the problem, solution and the customers who will purchase and use the product or service. It identifies competition, the business model for making money and how the team will use the prize money to advance the idea.

Nineteen student teams registered for Ag Springboard in early March, and 13 teams submitted video pitches for round one. The "final five" will pitch live and answer judges' questions Tuesday in the final round.

Ag Springboard is a signature event of the College of Agricultural Sciences' Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, dedicated to student, faculty and alumni entrepreneurship and innovation in the food and agriculture sectors, and made possible with the support of donors such as Earl and Kay Harbaugh.

The program also can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Nina Jenkins

    Penn State entomologist Nina Jenkins will deliver the keynote address at the awards banquet for the 2015 Ag Springboard business pitch competition.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 14, 2015