TO most of us, chia is a fuzzy, green sprout that grows into a funny “pet” or “hair” on a head-shaped clay container. A group of University of Louisville business students, however, see a plant that could become a top Kentucky top agricultural product.
A team of four UofL College of Business MBA students took first place at a University of Cincinnati business school competition Feb. 25 for their plan to develop Kentucky Chia, an edible seed rich in fiber, antioxidants, protein and Omega-3 fatty acids that helps prevent two fatal horse diseases: colic and laminitis.
U.S. horse farmers have difficulty obtaining chia seeds because they only grow in the warm climates of South America and Australia. The UofL team’s genetically unique seed, however, can grow in North America and assures a steady, costeffective supply. The team proposes to outsource production of its patent-pending seed to U.S. farmers and wholesale the crop to horse farms and companies that make feed and dietary supplements.
UofL team members Zack Pennington, Keith Starling, Joanna Cruz and Scott Serdoz beat out 15 other university teams at the UC Spirit of Enterprise Graduate Business Plan Competition. They won $10,000 and an automatic invite to the 2012 Venture Labs Investment Competition May 2-5 in Austin, Texas.
Last year, another UofL team, TNG Pharmaceuticals, won the Cincinnati contest for developing FlyVax, a patented horn fly vaccine for cattle, then became global Venture Labs champions. They won nearly $800,000 in prize money and now they’ve received economic development recruitment pitches.
Good luck to this year’s UofL team.