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KEDCo celebrates successful ‘ag + innovate youth agbioscience challenge’

Wednesday, February 5, 2020


Warsaw, Ind. (February 4, 2020) – Nearly 40 students from area schools came together last Friday for the first-ever Ag + Innovate Youth Agbioscience Challenge , presented by Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation (KEDCo).

The one-day event was hosted at Ivy Tech Community College in Warsaw. The Ag + Innovate Youth Agbioscience Innovation Challenge brought together local students and local agbioscience businesses. Students were presented with a menu of challenges in the local agriculture industry, and were tasked with “hacking” potential solutions for the problem.

Seven teams of students participated in the event from Tippecanoe Valley, Warsaw, Wawasee and Whitko High Schools.

“I am so impressed with our team members who developed this event, our sponsors, and school leaders who supported it–and the students came up with some amazing innovations,” said KEDCo CEO Alan Tio. “Our team will continue to look for new ways to support and encourage the growth of our agribusiness sector in Kosciusko County.”

Just 24 hours before the event, students received an e-mail with the proposed challenges. Two of the challenges were presented by local businesses, Egg Innovations and Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams. When the teams arrived on Friday, they chose their challenges and got to work.

Jason Williams, connector-in-chief at Jawbrain, served as an innovation consultant to help students walk through the design thinking methodology, which involves ideation, prototyping, and iteration processes.

After working diligently and creatively to hack solutions for the presented challenges, teams were tasked with giving six-minute presentations to a panel of judges. The teams were scored in five different categories including: the scale and complexity of the business problem that was explored; innovation of the solution presented; how skills and interests among team members were utilized; knowledge and understanding of the problem and proposed solution; and the overall quality of the presentation.

Solutions presented by teams included: ways to help farmers cross the hurdle of transitioning from conventional to organic farming (challenge presented by Egg Innovations); how to balance the need for housing while protecting lakes and supporting current/future livestock operations in the community (presented by Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams); how an automated device or system could be introduced to help alleviate the need for human labor; and ways the agbioscience industry can increase safety and wellness of workers.

An awards ceremony followed at Grace College. A team of students from Warsaw High School were crowned winners of the competition by judges from Purdue Extension, OrthoWorx and youth entrepreneurship nonprofit “Believe in a Dream.” Winning students included: Ethan Betances, Layne Blocher, Caroline Hastings, Adrian Rosas and Breanna Thompson. Each student received a $150 prize, earned $1,000 for Warsaw High School’s Agribusiness Program, and took home the “2020 Ag + Innovate Champion” banner to display at the school.

All participating students will have the opportunity to participate in entrepreneurship programming through KEDCo.

“We don’t want students to think their ideas have to stop here,” said Rhonda Ladig, entrepreneur partner at KEDCo. “WE want to do all we can to support local students, aspiring entrepreneurs and the business community in Kosciusko County.”

KEDCo would like to extend a special ‘thank you’ to event Title Sponsors: AT&T, Grace College and Huntington University; and Premier Event Sponsor, Elevate Northeast Indiana.

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Media Contact:

Alan Tio – 574 -265-2601 or 574-221-0367