UWM, UW-Parkside entrepreneurs to pitch at Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament

Light Fruit Co. and Automated Vertical Farm could win $25,000

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:04 pm

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Six teams of entrepreneurial college students, including groups from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and University of Wisconsin-Parkside, have been selected to compete in the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament.

The UW System’s nonprofit technology transfer office, WiSys Technology Foundation, is putting on the competition for early-stage companies at campuses statewide.

Light Fruit Co. and James Van Eerden will represent UW-Milwaukee. Light Fruit Co. makes dehydrated melon snacks. Van Eerden is a senior in geosciences at UWM. The company last week won second prize and $4,000 in the UWM New Ventures Business Plan Competition.

Automated Vertical Farm and Jeremy Preischel have been selected from UW-Parkside. The scalable vertical farming system aims to reduce labor costs and increase efficiency.

The other teams are: Stability, led by Rosalyn Stoa, Katherine Mikhail and A.J. Jensen from UW-Green Bay; Pyxsee, led by Dayne Rusch of UW-Oshkosh; Elysian Eyewear, led by Alan Pflaum and Doug Steinberg of UW-Platteville; and Songen, led by Miles Peterson, Reid Wilson and Forrest Close of UW-River Falls.

More competing companies will be announced soon, the organizers said. Last year, 12 companies pitched at the tournament. The contest aims to help entrepreneurs develop their lean startup businesses, hone their business concepts and test their ideas.

The winner will receive up to $25,000 in funding through the Ideadvance seed fund, an early-stage grant fund formed by the UW System and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to develop innovative business ideas from UW students, faculty, staff and alumni; and paid travel to the International Business Model Competition in May.

The Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament will be held Saturday, April 21 at the Discovery Building in Madison. It is open to the public.

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