From the development of the iron plow to the noble impulse to turn peanuts into a delicious sandwich spread, groundbreaking visionaries have repeatedly reshaped the way the world eats.
This fall the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is challenging its students — and students across the university — to become one of these groundbreakers through FABricate, a contest that will enable student ideas to help feed the world.
“For more than 150 years, this nation’s land-grant universities have been the epicenter of innovation in agriculture and food production, making our system of education, research and extension the envy of the world,” said CAES Dean Sam Pardue. “Because the University of Georgia is a remarkably comprehensive institution, we can bring together the great minds in the sciences, the classics and the social sciences to solve complex problems though innovative solutions. The commitment our students show to tackling these grand challenges head-on is, by nature, entrepreneurial, and is both our tradition and our future.”
During the multimonth contest, teams of students will develop a new piece of agricultural equipment or software, a new food product or a business plan for a novel service that will help make the food system and other agricultural sectors better, whether that means more efficient, more sustainable or more profitable.
Three finalists from each of these categories will be selected in October and given up to $1,500 in seed money to help bring their products as close to fruition as possible. Top winners in each category will be recognized in March 2017. Each winning team member will receive $1,000 in prize money.
The contest is open to undergraduates and graduate students from across the university, from all majors and all three CAES campuses, but at least half of the team members on each team must be made up of CAES students. A networking and information meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8, in the fourth-floor rotunda of the Miller Learning Center on the university’s Athens Campus. This meeting will help students with like interests find each other, find a faculty mentor and learn more about the program.
“They say that we’ve found the solutions to all the easy problems, and the problems that are left are going to take new ways of thinking, cooperation and working across disciplines,” said Jean Bertrand, assistant dean for academic affairs for CAES. “That’s what we’re hoping to stimulate with this contest—a new way of looking at some of the biggest problems facing agriculture and the food system. We’re going to have to double the food supply on this planet by 2050, and to do that we’re going to need everyone at the table.”
The winning entries in each category must be able to demonstrate the problem that their idea will solve or the market void it will fill, and must explain how their idea will remedy the situation. They must also develop a working business plan and present their idea to a panel of judges.
In addition to the contest, FABricate will include a monthly entrepreneurship seminar series, where contestants can find advice to refine their proposed products or services and where interested students can find inspiration.