CLEMSON — Modern-day agriculture is anything but child’s play, but giving it that fun feel was the driving force behind the product that took first place in this year’s Cultivate.CAFLS Showdown at Clemson University.
The winning product, Farm Fun Surprise Toys or “Farmies,” is an edutainment toy that has an agricultural surprise. Each of the toys comes in a barn shape and has multiple collectible toy surprises, an edible treat and educational material that can be incorporated into play.
“Kids today who don’t grow up on a farm don’t have that many opportunities to be exposed to agriculture, so we hope that this product will allow them to gain an interest in agriculture that they otherwise might not have had,” said Addie Stone, a junior agribusiness major from Dallas, Texas, and member of the winning team.
An initiative in Clemson’s College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) to promote the development of entrepreneurial ideas and skills, the Cultivate.CAFLS Showdown was held April 10 at the Watt Family Innovation Center Auditorium. It featured seven teams presenting their projects with the winning team taking home $2,000 to be used to further advance their project.
“‘Farmies’ is an agricultural toy that gives children the opportunity to dip their toes into agriculture at a young age because that’s a key age to engage children and teach them about how their food is developed and where their food comes from and where the animals that they participate with and play with live,” said Carlos Morales, a junior agricultural mechanization and business major from Sumter.
Morales said the spark behind the concept was the idea of teaching young people where the food they eat every day is actually produced.
“A lot of kids nowadays if you ask them where their food comes from they think the grocery store or some fast food restaurant,” he said. “But we want to try and broaden that idea of where it comes from and show them that it comes from a farm.”
Along with Stone and Morales, Joseph Beale, a senior agribusiness major from Vero Beach, Florida, was a member of the first-place team, which was guided through the process by faculty member Kirby Player, director of College Relations for the college.
“Participating in Cultivate has been such a great experience,” Stone said. “It really solidified the entrepreneurial and business building process for me. Going through the stages of designing a product to market research and looking at financials, it’s really helped me understand better the whole process of it all.”
Stone said the greatest challenge the team faced in the development of its product was building a prototype, and she credited Morales with doing the heavy lifting in that regard.
“He was the engineer behind all of it and getting it done in the makerspace,” she said.
Morales agreed that the prototype was his greatest challenge, as well.
“I worked with the product, building the blueprints for it and then actually taking the blueprints into a 3-D design and then from a 3-D design into a product,” he said. “My coworkers helped as much as they could, but it’s a hard subject to grasp when you don’t have 3-D experience. So once we learned how to do that, once we got over that hurdle, everything kind of fell more into place.”
With their winnings, Stone said the team would begin developing a business plan and working toward trademarking its product.
“The next step for us is probably going to be talking to some lawyers about getting patents and trademarks because we feel that a licensing model is the best way forward for our product,” she said. “Our winnings are probably going to end up toward lawyer fees to help with the patent and trademark process and further product design.”
In its second year, Cultivate.CAFLS was open to individuals or teams with at least half of the membership enrolled in a major in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, and the initiative was supported by the Spiro Institute and its advisory board and the Watt Family Innovation Center.
The second-place team, which garnered a $1,000 prize for its product, “Kombucha,” was mentored by Andrew Hurley, an associate professor in the food, nutrition and packaging sciences department. The team members were: JueJie Liu, Preston Snyder, Austin Tucker and Dillon Waters.
The third-place finisher received a $500 prize for the Collapsible Kitchen Garden and was the brainchild of Ryan Murphy. He was mentored by professor of horticulture Jeffrey Adelberg.
The People’s Choice Award went to Barista Buddies, a project developed by Marcus Curry, Sam Kessler and Thaxton Lipscomb. The team was mentored by professor and Cryovac Endowed Chair Kay Cooksey.
“All the projects in this year’s Cultivate.CAFLS Showdown were innovative, and the presentations were well done. This event really showcased the talents and work ethic that the students within CAFLS possess,” said Jean Bertrand, the college’s associate dean for undergraduate studies and organizer of the initiative. “We are very proud of the students who participated in this year’s event and are grateful to the faculty who gave their time and expertise to mentor them.”
Cultivate.CAFLS is part of a larger student development initiative, The CAFLS Advantage, which is a commitment by the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences to provide students with a broad array of experiential learning opportunities that prepare students to tackle the grand challenges facing our world. Opportunities include study abroad, study away in the U.S., study in South Carolina, entrepreneurship, internships, undergraduate research and active learning.