QuickSod swept the first-ever Tennessee Venture Challenge, 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 on 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,” said David Millhorn, UT executive vice president and president of UTRF. “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.”
QuickSod enables sod producers to decrease time to harvest and increase yield. Their proprietary growing medium allows for harvestable sod in twelve to sixteen weeks, compared to the fifty-two to 120 weeks expected with traditional methods. This allows for at least twice the production in the same amount of time. QuickSod’s turfgrass also 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, associate professor and Distinguished Scientist of Turfgrass Science in the Department of Plant Sciences at the UT Institute of Agriculture.
“The overall experience for the whole process was amazing,” Sorochan said. “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.”
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 made up 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 emceed the event.
TVC launched February 4 with a kickoff event at the UTRF Business Incubator. In conjunction with TVC, there was a seven-week entrepreneurial boot camp series led by Tech 20/20 that helped inventors define their market and refine their pitch. At the end of the 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,” said Millhorn. “We’re very optimistic about the future of QuickSod, and we look forward to supporting them in their growth.”
For more information on the Tennessee Venture Challenge or the UT Research Foundation, visit utrf.tennessee.edu/TVC.
UTRF helps inventors at UT turn their ideas and discoveries into products and services that benefit society. In addition to supporting university research enterprise and commercializing the resulting inventions, UTRF also supports entrepreneurship as well as state and regional economic development efforts. UTRF serves all seven of the UT campuses and institutes across the state. For more information, visit the research foundation’s website.
Kimberly Hood (865-974-1809, firstname.lastname@example.org)