Winners of the Tech Valley Business Plan competition pitched the next generation of battery storage technology, recyclable teddy bears, and a year-round organic produce project in Saratoga Springs.
Wednesday’s event featured a dozen presentations from students in the Capital Region and elsewhere in upstate New York. Students had to prepare a business plan, consisting of an overview of the technology, a market analysis, detailed financial forecast for the next five years, and an exit strategy outlining the company’s succession. They were later grilled by a slew of judges, scrutinizing the forecasted financial figures, business strategy and likelihood of commercial success.
First place winners received $10,000 cash, $8,000 of in-kind services from Heslin Rothenberg Farley Mesiti and $1,000 of in-kind business strategic consulting services from ECG Consulting Group Inc. Second place winners received $5,000 cash, and $1,000 of in-kind business strategic consulting services from ECG Consulting Group. Third place winners received $2,000 cash.
Among the top three finishers was a Capital Region native, Bridget Howley of Niskayuna.
Hawley will add $2,000 to the lot of grants obtained from the U.S. Environmental and Protection Agency for her project, which focused on growing aeroponic lettuce, spinach and other vegetables for a population of 50,000 in Saratoga Springs through a high rise commercial farm.
Howley along with Sean Bonnell of Oswego represented Clarkson University, a private school an hour from the Canadian border near the Adirondacks. The pair placed third in the competition for the project, which emphasized re-adapting buildings for new use and saving water, since aeroponic farming uses only 10 percent of the water currently used in traditional farming methods.
Judge John Lemery said he was impressed by the fact that the soon-to-graduate seniors had already obtained $85,000 in grant funds. He also said the project could be turned into a not-for-profit venture.
“I’m very impressed by the fact you’re actually building a scale of the model that you’re building,” Lemery said.
His next question sparked laughter from the crowd. “Have you tasted any of this yet?”
Bonnell and Howley answered yes and said the taste competed well with produce from traditional farming methods.
“Our pilot scale is going to be built by the end of the semester. From there, hopefully in the next couple of years we’re going to be doing something in Saratoga,” Bonnell said. “It’s going to make the wold a better place.”
Howley said they have already began negotiating with Honest Weight Co-op and food supplier Aramark as part of efforts to develop partnership to develop the project.
“It provides us with a better tomorrow and a more sustainable way to grow agriculture and provide more food for more people with less land mass,” Howley said.
The University at Albany Nanocollege’s Energy & Environmental Technology Applications Center — E2TAC — sponsored the event. Its director, Pradeep Haldar, who organized the business plan competition, said the event acted primarily as an educational experience, focusing on innovation, sustainability and entrepreneurism to prepare students to later introduce clean-tech concepts into communities with commercial and industrial applications.
This year marked the first time the annual business plan competition focused on energy technology.