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UT Martin student team to compete April 25-26 for national Agricultural Innovation Prize


Contact 1: Bud Grimes


MARTIN, Tenn. — Three University of Tennessee at Martin students will compete for the national Agricultural Innovation Prize, April 25-26, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Agriculture majors Shawn Butler, of Jackson, Austin Scott, of Hickory Valley, and Daniel Wiggins, of Friendship, will compete in a 30-team field that includes MIT, Yale, Harvard, Penn State, Purdue and other nationally known universities.

The UT Martin team was a first alternate for the competition but was added when another team was disqualified for exceeding $100,000 in receipts for its company. The team will now receive $1,000 for making the field and is eligible to win one of four semifinalist awards at $25,000 each or the $100,000 grand prize.

According to its website, the Agricultural Innovation Prize encourages “cutting-edge technology in agricultural and food systems.” The site notes that the Ag Prize “seeks students who are interested in transforming global food systems into one that facilitates sufficiency and resilience.”

The UT Martin team is called FarmSpec and has invented a “flex roller crimper,” a piece of farm equipment used to destroy cover crops in sustainable agricultural practices. Faculty members have assisted the students in their work and will prepare them for the contest. The students have submitted a provisional patent for their invention through the University of Tennessee Research Foundation.

“This (the competition) will definitely give our university very positive visibility in the national agricultural community and will greatly help our efforts with NextFarm,” said Dr. Todd Winters, dean, UT Martin College of Agriculture and Applied Science. “We are excited and very proud of the team.”

The students are developing their company in cooperation with the NextFarm Agricultural Innovation Accelerator, a project of Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center, Memphis Bioworks Foundation and Ag Innovation Development Group. NextFarm’s goal is to help start and grow new agricultural businesses in Tennessee.

Carol Reed, Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center director, and Dr. Rachna Tewari, assistant professor of agricultural economics, will travel with the team to Wisconsin.

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