By Owen Roberts
Audience participants have the opportunity to pick their favourite new U of G entrepreneurial team in this year’s Gryphon’s LAAIR Pitch Competition, a program that supports U of G researchers as they transform inventions and lab discoveries into commercially viable agri-food innovations.
The online event, which takes place May 27 at 3 p.m., will feature select entrepreneurial teams presenting their products, ideas and services in five-minute Dragon’s Den-style pitches, to a panel of three industry judges who will be participating from across Canada.
Stakes are high – the grand-prize winning team receives $10,000 to put towards the further development of its innovation.
In a new twist this year, the event is switching to an online version from its traditional in-person format, due to COVID-19 pandemic distancing requirements.
That change has proven to be challenging for presentation events elsewhere. And while it presented some hurdles for organizers at the U of G’s Research Innovation Office, it simultaneously opened several new doors.
“It’s a brand-new look,” says John Livernois, interim executive director of the Research Innovation Office. “We know that start-up companies will be important contributors of economic growth once the COVID-!9 crisis abates so we’re moving forward with a new approach to ensure U of G spin-outs don’t lose any momentum.”
First, the change to an online format meant a much more sizeable audience could be accommodated. In fact, up to 300 people are expected for this year’s event -- three times as many as the event has normally attracted since its debut in 2014 – from offices and homes everywhere.
“Without physical limitations, we can reach people that normally would not be able to be take part,” says Livernois.
Second, the online venue meant a seamless procedure could be developed for engaging audience members in electronic voting to determine a “People’s Choice” winner.
Here’s how it works. Using an online webcast platform, audience members will cast votes via their smart phones, laptops or other devices during a five-minute window near the end of the event. Their votes will be automatically tabulated, enabling organizers to immediately name the audience-selected winning team, which receives $7,000. The remaining three teams will receive consolation prizes of $1,000 each to put towards the advancement of their companies.
And finally, moving the competition online means it can be presented in an exciting live television-like format, enhanced with better sound and video technology. The two-camera production, staged by Straight Street Event Services, will switch back and forth between the team presenters, the judges and the host Jay Reid of the Making Box.
This year’s teams represent a wide array of innovation.
- Harvest Genomics develops and deploys DNA technologies for the agricultural industry, by combining innovative genetic testing and big data analysis for food production and food security. From plant and animal breeding to rapid testing for herbicide resistance weeds and invasive pest identification, this team employs the power of genomics for the Ontario agriculture industry and beyond.
- Green Feet Ecosystem Services uses drone technology and analytics software in a completely new way. Green Feet is an ecosystem service company; by creating customized processes that complement the existing expertise of farmers and land stewards, the company helps agricultural businesses access new markets and appeal to ecology-focused customers.
- Neophyto Foods strives to make it easier to choose plant-based foods. For example, when commercially available plant-based cheese products failed to meet the founders’ own cheese-loving standards, they created their own versions – using food science ingenuity to make plant-based versions of foods without compromising on taste, texture or sustainability.
- Psigryph Inc. redefines how bioactive molecules are delivered across cell membranes with the patent pending Nanopect™ delivery system. Suitable for transporting large numbers of molecules across the cell membranes of plants, animals and humans, this technology increases the bioavailability of nutrients. Psigryph Inc.’s plant-derived nanostructures are ready to enter the market.
- emendWELL Inc. is a boutique research consultancy that specializes in advancing science faster and more easily, ethically and responsibly than ever before. Founder Simone Holligan has created a unique online platform called SUBJECTMATTERS where academic researchers can find the right people to participate in studies and clinical trials.
Judges this year are Shelley King, CEO of Natural Products Canada, from Nova Scotia; Fred Wall, vice-president of marketing at Farm Credit Canada, from Saskatchewan; and Joe Dales, president of agriculture and food for RH Accelerator, from London, Ontario.
The 2020 version of Gryphon’s LAAIR Showcase and Pitch event will be introduced online by University of Guelph Vice-President (Research) Malcolm Campbell.
Register for the online event at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/gryphons-laair-pitch-competition-tickets-96092050911