Startup Weekend Mixes Agriculture and Innovation

Dozens of students gathered on Dalhousie University’s Agriculture campus in Truro, Nova Scotia on the weekend of January 22, 2016, all with a common goal: to build a startup in 56 hours. The majority of the students majored in Management or Commerce, but the theme of the event was specific; all startups had to aim to solve an agricultural problem – at least, if they wanted a chance at the $6000 worth of prizes waiting at the other end of the Sunday afternoon pitch competition.

From the start it was clear that the teams were not driven by potential prizes, but by the thrill of innovation. The energy in the room was tangible, as over fifty students shared their ideas and settled into teams, each setting out to solve a very real and vastly different problem than the others. Students dropped their educational mindsets and dove into the startup pace, working fast and sprawling ideas out on posterboards across the cafeteria, which had become their impromptu home base. Teams worked through the nights on their ideas, going into town to visit local customers and even making overseas phone calls to potential partners in different time zones and languages. This was not your average weekend on an academic campus.

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By hour 53, teams had solidified their ideas and drafted up cost models following the Business Model Canvas (shown above). From subscription-based cheese kits, to portable in-city farms, to even home aquaponics systems, the ideas spanned all aspects of agriculture. No idea was the same as the last, and all teams impressed the panel of local entrepreneurs and investors judging the competition.

Startup Weekend was the most fast-paced student event I have ever been to. I’ve never seen a group of students dive so wholeheartedly into their projects and work so consistently to make them as feasible as possible. It is amazing to see what students are capable of, especially when tackling projects outside of their day-to-day focuses. Not every student there was studying agriculture, but every student was dedicated to launching their startup.

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