By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Sunday is another in a series of big days for local start-up Grow Bioplastics, and local residents can provide some long-distance support.
The company will be competing in the National Farm Bureau Federation’s “Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge” in Phoenix. Grow Bioplastics already won $15,000 for being selected as one of four semi-finalists, and it would win another $15,000 if it was selected for the “Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award.”
It’s doubtful if many East Tennesseans not associated with Grow Bioplastics will be at the event, but there’s a way that local citizens can offer their support for the start-up.
“As part of the Farm Bureau competition, there is a ‘People’s Choice Award’ that comes with a $10,000 prize,” Tony Bova, company Co-Founder said. The voting opens at 8 p.m. EST today (January 6) and close 48 hours later at 8 p.m. EST on Sunday.
“The poll will be posted here – http://www.strongruralamerica.com/challenge/ – and anyone can vote,” Bova added. “We would love the support of the teknovation readers and the Knoxville entrepreneurial community.”
Grow Bioplastics is developing renewable, biodegradable plant containers and mulch films that eliminate oil based plastics from the agricultural system, a technology that aligns very well with the Farm Bureau interests.
“We still have additional product development milestones ahead of us and will be working on a pilot testing program in 2017,” Bova says. “We hope to have our first commercial products available in mid-2018.”
For those who are regular readers of teknovation.biz, you have followed the evolution of the start-up founded by Bova and Jeff Beegle, his business partner. Both are students in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a joint initiative of the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
One of the key focus areas for Bova has been pitch competitions.
“We’ve participated in 13 different business plan and pitch competitions over the last year,” he said. “From those competitions, we’ve been awarded $67,500.”
How valuable were these events beyond the prize money?
“The feedback from each individual event has been invaluable – especially when it came to not only content, but style and delivery,” Bova says. “There always seems to be more information that I want to say in a pitch but can’t fit in the amount of time. Feedback at each competition allows me to better understand what areas the questions were focused on, what I might have missed, and how to fit that in. We’ve also been able to really streamline what we’re trying to say into quick, simple language. You can fit a lot in three to five minutes if you spend quality time revising over and over.”
The Farm Bureau event offers a new and important venue.
“Until now, we’ve only had two smaller opportunities to present in front of an audience specifically interested in agriculturally-related technologies in Tennessee,” Bova explained. “The audience at the Farm Bureau event will be full of a nationwide group of farmers, parties interested in farming and AgTech, and potential strategic partners and investors. The nationwide reach of the Farm Bureau really is an exciting proposition for us as well as there is a validation that what we’re working on is resonating with the people we’re most interested in helping.”