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A Pair Made for the Startup Heavens: Barnraiser Crowdfunding Partners with The Food Lab at the University of Texas

It’s not often you see altruistic innovation get paired with the funding it needs to impact the world, but luckily for entrepreneurs in the University of Texas’ (UT) Food Lab Challenge Prize competition, an opportunity just arose. Barnraiser, a crowdfunding community started by Eileen Gordon, wife of celebrity-chef Michael Chiarello, is pairing up with The Food Lab to help entrepreneurs, who are dedicating their work to improving the world’s food system, get the funding they need.

The Barnraiser site, which focuses on food health and sustainability, is geared very much towards helping the entrepreneur succeed.  Creating a page for your project is free and hosting fees are charged only if your company successfully reaches its goals.  Pledgers can go onto the site and get information about current projects and how to fund them.  Entrepreneurs include videos and background stories of how the initiative got started along with the resources they need to continue the work.  Similar to Kickstarter, if the project doesn’t get funded, then all funds are returned to the pledgers.

The Food Lab at UT has been busy handing out cash itself lately. On Feb. 14 it named the Food Lab Challenge Prize winner from 20 finalists.  Austin-based Ten Acres Organic, which produces fish and produce through the use of aquaponics, a method which can employ 90 percent less water and produce 20 times more food than standard agricultural methods, took home the $10,000 grand prize.

Four category winners were awarded $5,000 each and they included

Aspire Food Group for Healthy Eating and Education; Revive Foods for Inputs and Production; Sereneti Kitchen for Processing, Packing & Safety and CitySprout for Storage and Distribution.  For more information on the finalists’ profiles, check out UT’s Food Challenge Prize Program.

All finalists were paired with industry mentors for 13 weeks before presenting their business ideas to a panel of esteemed judges.  They included Elise Golan from the United States Department of Agriculture, Aimee Olson from Le Cordon Bleu, and Jon Basset of Silverton Partners.  The competition started last May and received more than 120 entrants.

Submissions for the 2015-2016 program will begin in June of 2015.

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