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Team Rhizofeed wins again

March 04, 2016 12:00 AM
Pikeville, Ky.
University of Pikeville’s Team Rhizofeed earned two awards during the Baylor University New Venture Competition in Waco, Texas. The team finished first in the elevator pitch competition and second in the business plan competition earning $26,000.

The Baylor University New Venture Competition is an event for graduate programs at the highest level, which includes Ph.D. candidates and graduates of Ph.D. programs. In total, 146 teams from 83 universities applied to the competition but only the best 12 business plans were accepted.

The event started with a dinner and the elevator pitch competition. One member from each team was given up to 90 seconds to pitch their company to a crowd of approximately 200 people. The audience voted via text message for the best pitches. Erica Newsome, of Pikeville, gave the first pitch and Rhizofeed advanced as one of four finalists. Molly Frank, of Greensburg, pitched during the final round and earned first place and $1,000.

“Oftentimes, I find myself sitting in the audience listening to other pitches and wondering how our team from small town Pikeville, Ky., could ever compete at the same level as teams from Purdue, Rice, UCLA and numerous other ‘big-name’ schools,” said Frank. “Yet, to my amazement, Rhizofeed never fails to rise to the level of the competition. We have proven that small schools such as the University of Pikeville are capable of not only competing with but defeating these larger schools.”

For the full business plan presentations, 12 teams were split into two tracks, technology and non-technology. Rhizofeed was in the non-technology track, which was the more competitive grouping of teams. During the opening round, the team of UPIKE students presented before a panel of 10 judges and advanced to the finals to compete against two teams from the non-technology track and two from the technology track.

As finalists, teams presented to a panel of 10 different judges and an audience of their competitors, investors and members of the community. All grand prizewinners came from the non-technology track. Rhizofeed earned second place and $25,000.

“It was an honor just to be accepted into this competition. To perform so well winning a first and second place was amazing,” said David Snow, D.M., director of the Kentucky Innovation Network Pikeville office, director of business competitions, associate professor of business and faculty adviser for the team. “This team of students continues to work to improve upon their business plan and I am very proud of them. I hope their success paves the way to build a full entrepreneurship program at the University of Pikeville.”

Wesley Barnett of Cynthiana, Ky., and Matthew Thacker and Justin Prater of Pikeville, join Newsome and Frank to make up team Rhizofeed. Frank and Newsome are biology majors and Barnett is a biology and chemistry major. Thacker and Prater are MBA students. The team has developed an organic feed additive for the poultry industry made from bloodroot grown in Eastern Kentucky. Their all-natural, patented product was created to replace antibiotic use in the poultry industry and enable farmers to raise healthier, larger chickens while also reducing feed costs.


Pictured, from left, David Snow, Erica Newsome, Matthew Thacker, Justin Prater, Wesley Barnett and Molly Frank.

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