Redefining the Classroom

Micro fish farm idea in state competition

Posted: February 15th, 2012

Feb. 18 update: Team wins $5,000 Judge's Choice prize . . . DETAILS COMING!

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- A team of Lake Superior State University faculty and students, dubbed Superior AquaSystems, is off to Ann Arbor on Feb. 17 for the fourth-annual Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge. Superior AquaSystems will be competing with 21 other teams from six universities across the state of Michigan. The top team will walk away with $50,000 in seed money to take their business plan to the next level of development.

The Challenge, established by the University of Michigan and DTE Energy, encourages students from Michigan colleges and universities to develop clean-energy solutions into thriving businesses. It requires teams to develop a business plan based on a new technology, product, or service that addresses a specific clean-energy issue. Business ideas range from a sketch on a napkin to a fully formed, pre-revenue company. Proposed ventures must also addresses Michigan's biggest challenges of rural poverty and unemployment and the development of new sustainable, rapid growth industries.

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Superior AquaSystems' business design incorporates a sustainable, eco-friendly system to grow healthy seafood. The venture would offer a cost-effective recirculating system that uses renewable energy, biologically sound water purification, and clean technologies to maximize seafood production in small-scale, decentralized operations.

The plan leverages the engineering, aquaculture, biotech, and business resources of Lake Superior State University. Consumer demand for contaminant-free fresh fish is well established. Superior AquaSystems addresses two large issues facing the aquaculture industry: environmental impact, including intensive water demand, and water pollutants; and the cost to raise seafood to marketable size. The team's localized model for aquaculture reduces energy costs and conserves Great Lakes resources.

Team members include Zachary Prause (Wyoming, Mich.), Tyler Jackson (Clyde, Mich.) and Garret Price (Luzerne, Mich.) from Biological Sciences; Noel Granger (Fraser, Mich.) from International Business, Alexander Schroeder (Kentwood, Mich.) from Electrical Engineering, and Daniel Walker (Rockford, Mich.) from Computer Sciences.

The team is advised by Barbara Evans from Biological Sciences, Ralf Wilhelms from International Business, Paul Weber from Electrical Engineering, and Roger Greil, LSSU’s Aquatic Research Lab manager. Outside advisors include Diane Durance from the Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest, Jesse Trushenski from SIUC Illinois Aqauculture Center, and Michele Walk from MSU Extension.

A total of 13 prizes will be awarded. In addition to a first- and second-place prize, there will be six category awards, including best resource conservation, increased energy efficiency and green building.

Five special achievement awards will be given to best prototype, best team assembled, most likely to create a whole new market, best pivot(s), and judges’ choice. 'Pivots' fold into addressing a whole new customer base, anticipating how a customer's problems or needs can be solved, and how a product's features can best steer or reorient consumer demand.

Clean Energy Venture Challenge sponsors include DTE Energy, MASCO Corporation Foundation, the Kresege Foundation, U.S. Department of Energy, Google, UBS Investment Bank, Eisbrenner Public Relations, the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University, Wayne State University, Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University. Partners include the University of Michigan’s Ross Energy Club, Energy Institute, Center for Entrepreneurship, and MPowered.

Run a web search on "Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge" for complete competition information.


CONTACTS: John Shibley, e-mail, 906-635-2314; Tom Pink, e-mail, 635-2315; faculty lead Barbara Evans, e-mail, 635-2164; Amy Klinke, Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge, e-mail, (734) 647-7071.