QuickSod swept the first ever Tennessee Venture Challenge (TVC), claiming both the $25,000 overall prize and the $5,000 Crowd Favorite Award at the TVC Pitch Competition held by the UT Research Foundation (UTRF) Thursday, April 3 at The Foundry in Knoxville.
TVC is a business plan competition for the University of Tennessee community. To be eligible for the competition, potential startup companies must be commercializing intellectual property created at a UT campus or institute.
“We were very pleased with the quality of ideas we had participating in the inaugural TVC Pitch Competition. We saw technologies ranging from turfgrass to cancer drugs, which is an excellent representation of the broad spectrum of research occurring at the University of Tennessee,” said David Millhorn, University of Tennessee Executive Vice President and President of UTRF.
QuickSod is enabling sod producers to decrease time to harvest and increase yield. Their proprietary growing medium allows for harvestable sod in 12-16 weeks, compared to the 52-120 weeks expected with traditional methods. This allows for at least twice the production in the same amount of time. In addition, QuickSod’s turfgrass is lighter weight, allowing for more sod per truckload and giving it a longer shelf life after harvest.
QuickSod was represented by lead inventor John Sorochan, Associated Professor and Distinguished Scientist of Turfgrass Science in Plant Sciences at the UT Institute of Agriculture.
“The overall experience for the whole process was amazing! I learned a tremendous amount, and I was especially impressed by all of the fascinating research that is being done by other colleagues in the University system,” said Sorochan.
Sorochan plans to use the money from TVC to establish QuickSod as a business and fund the first prototype for testing this summer.
“I am excited for this invention to come to fruition and to hopefully benefit sod producers everywhere, especially in Tennessee,” he said.
Ken Woody of Innova Memphis, Eric Dobson of Angel Capital Group and Grady Vanderhoofven of Meritus Ventures comprised the judging panel that selected the overall winner, while the audience chose the Crowd Favorite through a text-in voting system. Local radio personality Hallerin Hill was on hand to emcee the event.
TVC launched on Feb. 4 with a kick-off event at the UTRF Business Incubator. In conjunction with TVC, there was a 7-week entrepreneurial bootcamp series led by Tech 20/20 that helped inventors define their market and refine their pitch. At the end of the 7-week series, ten potential startups competed in the TVC Semifinals. During the semifinals, the field was narrowed to the six teams that would compete in the final event.
“Moving intellectual property from the lab into the marketplace is one of UTRF’s primary functions, and we’re excited about the enthusiasm for commercialization we’ve seen in UT faculty members during this competition. We’re very optimistic about the future of QuickSod, and we look forward to supporting them in their growth,” said Millhorn.