Cooker app pitch wins grand prize at Agri-food Startup Weekend

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Left to Right – Winners: Dawood Sunewala and Mohammed Hussain, Geordan Robertson, Director of Small Business, Meridian Credit Union, Winners: Nikita Ulybin and Anatoliy Katsimon, Judges: Christine Merrick, Project Solutions Manager, CMSIntelligence (Tymbrel), Misheck Mwaba, Dean, Media, Trades & Technology, Niagara College, Derek Schulze, Professor, School of Environment and Horticultural Studies, Niagara College.

From January 27 to January 29, Niagara College students and Niagara community members developed ideas and business models that contribute to solving problems in the one sector that connects us all: food.

Following the Startup Weekend model, made famous by Google, this action-packed weekend kicked off on Friday night with a keynote presentation by Niagara College graduate and award-winning horticulturalist, David Pratt. Approximately 80 attendees, including community members, Niagara College faculty and staff, were enlightened by Pratt’s success in agri-food innovations from the desalination of water to insect protein. From there, five teams formed and gained insight from Steve Boese, Generator at one, on ‘How to Have an Idea.’

On Saturday, teams researched and developed ideas into business models, with support of local entrepreneurs and mentors, and attended workshops on the ‘Business Model Canvas’ led by Rachel Crane, Niagara College, and ‘Pitching to Investors’ with Chris Janzen, Innovate Niagara. Teams worked late into Saturday night and early Sunday on business models and pitch presentations, with support of mentors, Rob Madronic, Niagara College, and Joseph Katz, EnactusNC.

Teams inspired the judges with their pitches and competed for the grand prize package valued at $3,000 ($500 cash and business development services: marketing support and website development, tickets and showcase opportunity at Niagara’s Food and Beverage Convention, automatic advancement into Niagara College’s Pitch Perfect competition, discovery meeting with Vineland Research Innovation Centre, 5 coffees with 5 mentors at BioLinc, workspace and equipment at ncTakeOff Interactive Digital Media lab at Innovate Niagara’s Generator at one).

The grand prize was awarded to ‘Cooker” – an app that makes nutritious, homemade food accessible and connects at-home chefs with the hungry of Niagara – by computer programming students, Nikita Ulybin and Anatoliy Katsimon, and international business students, Dawood Sunewala and Mohammed Hussain.

Other solutions presented included:

  • “AlGon”– the harvesting of local, naturally produced algae for food and biofuel products, proposed by one greenhouse technician student, one business student and one law clerk student;
  • “Instamite” – bee hive management software, developed by one commercial beekeeping student and two business students;
  • “Unifarming” – a group farm management system which facilitates better access to ag tech for small farms, by a data architect and two business students; and
  • “Palette Gardening” – vertical home garden grow spaces made from upcycled palette wood, by one computer systems student, one commercial beekeeping student, and one business student.

The event was hosted by ncTakeOff (Niagara College’s entrepreneurship hub), and sponsored by Meridian Credit Union as part of the Ignite Pitch Series. Prize package sponsors also included EnactusNC, BioLinc, Innovate Niagara, Tymbrel, and Vineland Research Innovation Centre.

-Submitted by ncTakeOff

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