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Devin D. Thorpe

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The Food Lab at University of Texas Teams With Startup Aggieland and The Borlaug Institute to Promote First-time Food Challenge Prize

Competition Supported by Texas A&M University’s New Student Business Accelerator

AUSTIN, Texas — The Food Lab at UT, which recently announced its early-stage business startup competition, The Food Lab Challenge, has joined forces with Startup Aggieland and The Borlaug Institute to encourage innovation in the global food system. In its inaugural year at The University of Texas at Austin, the competition will award $30,000 in prizes to teams producing a product or service impacting one of four food-related categories (read below). The business competition is open to anyone, anywhere, from undergraduate students to established entrepreneurs and has attracted more than 60 teams since registration began June 1, 2014.

“The Food Lab at UT is based in the idea of creating alliances across a larger, entrepreneurial-minded food community – from businesses and government to educational institutions and non-profits. We’re thrilled to team up with the like-minded innovators at Startup Aggieland and The Borlaug Institute; it’s just the beginning of our growing academic network dedicated to innovation in the food system,” said Robyn Metcalfe, founder and director of the Food Lab at UT.

“Startup Aggieland looks forward to continuing our entrepreneurial collaboration with The University of Texas by association with The Food Lab at UT and similarly innovative programs at the Austin campus,” noted Startup Aggieland Assistant Director Don Lewis, an executive professor with Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. “When Startup Aggieland Marketing Coordinator Shelly Brenckman brought this opportunity to me, it seemed like a natural fit to what our students at Startup Aggieland are already doing. The idea of addressing real world problems in conjunction with our friends at UT furthers this fit and our strategic alliance.”

Startup Aggieland has added the competition to curriculum for its prestigious Startup Fellows program for freshmen and sophomores, an initiative created by Brenckman. One of her mentors with Texas A&M’s College of Architecture also added it to his curriculum.

“We’re thrilled about the collaboration between these two flagship institutions,” stated Professor Rodney Hill, AIA Piper Professor for Teaching Excellence in the State of Texas and a founding member of the Board of Directors for Startup Aggieland. “It’s how the real world works. We encourage our students to get out of their bubbles and go global.”

A key alliance includes the support of the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, named for the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Norman Borlaug, a distinguished teacher and researcher at Texas A&M from 1984 until his death in 2009. The Borlaug Institute and Startup Aggieland will not only help promote the Food Lab Challenge across its networks, from students and faculty to corporate and community partners, but will also provide mentors and judges.

“I am honored to be a part of the UT Food Lab Competition,” stated Associate Director for External Relations at Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture Julie Borlaug. “Programs like this provide a platform for the next generation of “hunger fighters” to become engaged in the fight against global hunger. Our collaboration with The Food Lab at UT shows that people can and do work together across disciplines to find unique and innovative solutions to food security. Business as usual won’t adequately address the challenges we face in feeding nine billion people. We need fresh ideas and open minds.”

Competition registrants form teams of four or five members to aid the development of their business plans and supporting materials. The Food Lab is looking for team ideas that not only result in a great product but also impact and improve how the food supply chain functions in the following categories:

  1. Inputs and Production
  2. Processing, Packaging and Safety
  3. Storage and Distribution
  4. Healthy Eating and Food Education

A winner in each category will receive $5,000 and be eligible for the grand prize of $10,000; a total of $30,000 in cash rewarded.

Important Dates:

June 1, 2014 – Registration opens
September 30, 2014 – Food Lab Challenge registration ends, business plans due
November 1, 2014 – Finalist teams chosen and paired with mentors
February 14, 2015 – Challenge Prize Day event, winning teams announced

Teams chosen as finalists will be notified in early November. At that time, finalists will be paired with industry mentors who will guide the strengthening of business plans and the development of prototypes. Winning teams will be announced at an event in Austin scheduled for February 14, 2015.

For more information on the Food Lab Challenge Prize and for registration details, please visit the website.

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