Business Team

Things We Do:

  • Grants and Fundraising

  • Volunteering Initiatives

  • Community Outreach

  • Business/Case Competitions

  • Business Model Development


Business Competitions:

  • 2017-2018 optiMize Social Innovation Challenge -  The optiMize business challenge consisted of several months of workshops intended to grow an idea to a full fledged business plan. Throughout the workshops we came up with a three step plan, implementing smaller barrelponics systems into co-op housing on campus, then medium sized systems on local farms, and finally large systems capable of feeding many university students. We were awarded $3000 in seed funding and had the chance to present our project idea to optiMize alumni, families, and the campus community at the 2018 optiMize Showcase. Our Vice President of Business was awarded an optiMize Summer Fellowship and will be working with optiMize to pursue our project over the summer

  • Campus of the Future Bicentennial Competition - As a part of the University of Michigan’s bicentennial celebration, we were invited to submit a project to reimagine methods and spaces for teaching and learning at Michigan in the 21st century. We were selected to pitch our project to implement large-scale aquaponics systems in the dining halls at UM at the Campus of the Future Showcase to eminent judges including Anthony Appiah, ethicist of the New York Times, Jenny E. Sabin, Director of Graduate Studies in Architecture at Cornell, and Babak Parviz, VP of Amazon and the creator of Google Glass.

  • 2017 China Business Challenge - Sponsored by the China Entrepreneurship Network and the Center for Entrepreneurship, the China Business Challenge is an entrepreneurship business challenge that provides students with the opportunity showcase their global talent by proposing solutions to a philanthropic, health, or environmental issue in China and to compete against other impact-driven teams. We pitched a commercial-scale aquaponics business model to a panel of judges and were the only undergraduate team to reach the final stage of the competition.

  • 2017 Accelerate Michigan Student Innovation Competition - Accelerate Michigan is an annual international business challenge for student-designed startups and entrepreneurs and we were selected as semi-finalists to pitch our commercial-scale business model titled “Ponix, Inc.” to a panel of investors.  

  • 2017-2018 Michigan Business Challenge - The Michigan Business challenge is a campus-wide business plan competition where student teams go through the cycle of venture creation by creating a strong pitch, which is presented to a panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs and investors. We pitched a commercial size aquaponics system producing fish and vegetables that would be sold to restaurants and grocery stores.

Grants and Fundraising:

  • Dow Distinguished Award for Interdisciplinary Sustainability (2017-2018) - The Dow Distinguished Awards for Interdisciplinary Sustainability competition supports student-led projects that focus on a compelling and practical effort to foster sustainability at the local/regional, national, or global levels. As part of a partnership with the graduate student organization Sustainability without Borders, we were awarded $5000 in seed funding to support the transportation of a large-scale aquaculture system from RecoveryPark Farms in Detroit to a hoop house at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and repurposing for research.

  • Graham Sustainability Institute Small-Scale Grant (2016-2017) - Generously provided by the Graham Sustainability Institute that seeks to promote sustainable solutions on campus, we received over $800 in funding for the development of our Alpha and Huron High School systems.

  • Nanette R. LaCross Prize (2016-2017) - This prize honors the student who best exemplifies the spirit of Nanette LaCross who as a lawyer worked tirelessly for women’s rights, animal welfare, and many other environmental concerns. Through a member of our business team, received $2000 through this grant to pursue ongoing development of our systems.


Community Outreach and Volunteering:

  • Ypsilanti Community High School - We’re working with Ypsilanti Community High School to design and install an educational system to assist a chemistry teacher with educating students on biogeochemical cycles and pH.

  • Growing Hope - We’re working with Growing Hope, a technical consultant for farmers, nonprofits, corporations, and governmental agencies, to design and install an educational aquaponics system complete with signage for visitors in their main facility. On the side, we are also engaged in continued volunteering with Growing Hope in order to support their farming initiatives.  

  • DP Day - The Detroit Partnership Day is an annual day of service in which student organizations from across campus travel to Detroit to support various organizations and neighborhood restoration projects in underserved areas. Last year, we assisted in the cleanup and restoration of an urban farm to prepare for planting season.

  • Gleaner’s Food Bank - Gleaner’s works to supply millions of pounds of donated and purchased food to people in need across southeast Michigan. We assisted them in one of their warehouses by preparing pallets with over half a ton in food products and packaging them for distribution.   


The Business and Community Outreach team welcomes members of all backgrounds and no experience in case competitions, grants and fundraising, or community outreach and volunteering is required!