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October 04, 2015 | Tom Ballard

New cheese product line part of “Aginnovations” initiative

UTIABy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

The University of Tennessee’s Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) unveiled a new product line on Saturday as part of its annual Ag Day festivities that is also a metaphor for its broader commitment to entrepreneurship.

The “All Vol Cheese” product that was announced comes in four flavors – Mild Cheddar, Game Day Sharp Cheddar, Smokey’s Smoked Gouda and Torchbearer Jalapeno. The significance of these names will not be lost on loyal UT alumni!

What’s more significant to us about the new product line, however, is the ties that it has to an overall effort that goes by the name of “Aginnovations.”

Bill Brown, Dean of AgResearch at UTIA, says it is about helping “faculty, researchers and students turn their ideas into new businesses, whether internal or external.”

Over the past few years, we have come to appreciate the Dean’s quest to accelerate the commercialization of ideas developed in the Institute of Agriculture. Most recently, we reported on Brown’s strategy in a late June article on where he announced the hiring of Joy Fisher, a well-known local entrepreneur, to help lead the effort.

At that time, Fisher told us that all of the efforts would not involve the commercialization of intellectual property.

“There are a lot of ideas that don’t have IP, but could be a business that generates revenue and visibility for UT,” Fisher said. She indicated there were some ideas bubbling but provided no details.

When we caught-up with her Friday, Fisher reiterated the point. “There are many great ideas being discussed in the Institute that could benefit our programs financially.”

“All Vol Cheese” represents one of those early opportunities to capitalize on UTIA expertise through a partnership with a local company – Sweetwater Valley Farm – and also find a way to benefit the Institute financially.

The cheese is available for purchase online and during fundraisers by UT student clubs.

“One of our goals was to enhance the (UTIA) brand,” Fisher told us on Friday. That is clearly apparent with the new product line.

“We also want to help build the entrepreneurial culture by generating internal business,” she said. “This clearly shows how faculty can create business out of the work they do.”

All proceeds from the sale of “All Vol Cheese” benefit student programs at UT.

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