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Entrepreneurial Experience: Entrepreneurship Teams Test Ventures at UA Innovation Day

Verdant Earth entrepreneurshiip exhibitJosh Hottenstein, MS MIS '09,
explains the concept of Verdant
Earth to a prospective investor

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April 2009

By Liz Warren-Pederson

Angel investors and other attendees perused displays and asked informal questions about the 21 McGuire Entrepreneurship Program team exhibits

In March, 21 McGuire Entrepreneurship Program teams put their venture concepts to the test in a tradeshow format as part of the annual Innovation Day at UA.

Attendees, including angel investors who were on campus for the Southwest Angel Summit, perused the displays and asked informal questions about the ventures.

“We had to address the concerns of individuals ranging from environmentalists to members of the investment community,” explains Josh Hottenstein (BSBA MIS ’07 and MS MIS ’09) of Verdant Earth. The venture revolves around the design of sustainable crop production systems, products, and services. “By applying systems design methodologies from information systems, we were able to optimize and automate a significant portion of the growing process,” explains Hottenstein. “The optimization of these processes allows us to fit a full-scale growing system into an ISO shipping container and retain the quality, consistency, and productivity one can normally achieve in a greenhouse.”

Hottenstein partnered with Myles Lewis (BS in Agricultural Technology and Professional Science Master’s in Applied Biosciences) on the venture.

“Once you can fit a farm into a container, you are no longer bound to a specific location or environmental conditions,” Hottenstein continues. “This means we can grow a salad on a loading dock or in the middle of the desert.”

Verdant Earth was recognized by the Arizona Center for Innovation as Best Tradeshow Display at the event.

The next step for the teams is a formal academic and investment review on April 16 and 17, followed by the 25th annual Year-End Entrepreneurship Celebration on April 24. This year, all 21 teams will present their ventures to the judging panel in a “rocket pitch” format; the judges will then select their top picks for detailed presentations.

“The ability to adapt our pitch to dynamically respond to differing audiences will be invaluable during both the academic review and rocket pitch sessions,” Hottenstein says. “We need to effectively engage with each audience in explaining what we do and why our venture is relevant to them.”

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