The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 20, 2013

MVAC food hub finalist for big grant

Project vying for Minnesota Cup and $40,000

By Amanda Dyslin

---- — MANKATO — Minnesota Valley Action Council's food hub initiative is one of the finalists in a major statewide entrepreneurial contest.

The Minnesota Cup contest officials announced Tuesday that the food hub is one of 18 finalists vying for a grand prize of $40,000 and one of just three finalists in the Social Entrepreneur category. The finalists have been pared down from 57 semi-finalists and an overall entry pool of 1,100.

Minnesota Cup is the largest statewide venture competition in the country, and its purpose is to support and accelerate the development of Minnesota’s newest and most innovative business ideas.

The top three ideas in each of the six divisions in the Minnesota Cup — Energy/Clean Tech, General, High Tech, Life Science/Health IT, Social Entrepreneur and Student — will advance to the finalist round and will compete for a share of $200,000 in prize money and the opportunity to bring their entrepreneurial vision into focus.

“We've got a good shot in the Social Entrepreneur category,” said Jim Gehrke, MVAC awareness coordinator.

The food hub would work with numerous small farmers in southern Minnesota, purchasing their produce, eggs and meats, among other things; creating a large-scale supply of food; and then selling it to institutions and restaurants in the area, such as hospitals, restaurants, public schools and colleges, Gehrke said.

MVAC also plans to offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) plans for consumers. The public can buy a subscription, and during the 16- to 18-week growing season, they would receive weekly boxes of foods that are in season. (Subscriptions will be for sale as early as January 2014.)

On Aug. 27, Gehrke will give a 24-minute presentation on the food hub at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota to Minnesota Cup judges. Later that day, one finalist will be selected in each category.

Winning in their category would bring $20,000 in seed money for MVAC's business plan. One runner-up in each category receives $5,000.

The six finalists will make another presentation Sept. 11, after which the overall winner will be selected.

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