By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
The top 20 finalists in the first Food Challenge Prize, put on by the Food Lab at UT, displayed their wares throughout the room. It kind of resembled a science fair with posters and flyers on the various startups. They also provided samples of such delicacies as cricket granola.
A band played in the hallway where visitors mingled and munched on sandwiches and sipped on drinks from BeatBox, an Austin startup that received a $1 million investment from Mark Cuban on Shark Tank.At the afternoon pitch session, the finalists gave three-minute slide presentations and provided information on their startups. Then the judges deliberated and around 3:30 p.m. Robyn Metcalfe, founder and director of the Food Lab at UT, announced the winners.
Sproot, a three-year-old startup from Somerville, Mass, that delivers healthy snacks and meals to kids in pre-schools and runs children’s cooking classes, won the People’s Choice Award.
Ten Acre Organics, a startup which is building a 10-acre farm based on aquaponics, in which fish and vegetables are grown together to create zero waste took the grand prize and won $10,000.
Ten Acre Organics participated in the Texas Venture Lab last year and has previously participated in the Unlimited USA incubator.
In addition to the grand prizewinner, $20,000 in prizes went to four food startups that won their category. The category winners each received $5,000.
Aspire Food Group, an Austin startup that processes and sells farm-raised edible insects, won in the category of Healthy Eating and Education.
Revive Foods from San Francisco won in the category of Inputs and Production. It makes jams, jellies and other foods from surplus fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go into the trash.
Sereneti Kitchen from Atlanta won in the category of Processing, Packaging and Safety. It makes a robotic appliance to automate household food preparation.
CitySprout, an Austin-based startup which serves as a virtual farmers market connecting buyers with local farmers online, won for Storage and Distribution.
More than 120 early stage startups registered for the competition.
“This first-time event generated tremendous goodwill and enthusiasm throughout the university, the city and across the country,” Metcalfe said in a news release. “And the Challenge is intended to have an impact well beyond today’s awards – we are connecting teams to a powerful network geared towards continued growth. We look forward to seeing where all of the teams will be a year from now.”