College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

Tea-rific Student Entrepreneurs

Author: 
Glori Hyman
Terrapin Tea-m members Eric Michol and Nicolas Tardif pose with the product at the AgI2C Undergraduate Ideation Competition.

Agriculture students typically don’t think of themselves as innovators or entrepreneurs, but a group of Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA) freshmen and a new College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) initiative are changing that perception. Following UMD President Wallace Loh’s lead to “expose every student in every field to education and hands-on experience in innovation and entrepreneurship,” the Institute of Applied Agriculture is infusing entrepreneurship into its curriculum. 

During their first semester, IAA students take Agricultural Entrepreneurship, a course that introduces them to start-up models and concepts related to launching profitable agricultural businesses. “The course simulates what agricultural entrepreneurship looks like in the real world, including idea generating, feasibility studies, new venture financing and assembling an entrepreneurial team,” says the course instructor Larisa Cioaca. “The course culminates with student teams making Shark Tank-type pitches for their new products or services.”

One team of IAA students took their classroom pitch to the next level. Nicolas Tardif, Becky Jones, and Eric Michol are growing Terrapin Tea, a calming, organic herbal tea, on the UMD campus. Led by Tardif, an Ornamental Horticulture major, the team pitched its business venture at the first-ever AgI2C Undergraduate Ideation Competition on April 19, 2017. AgI2C (which stands for Agriculture Innovation to Commercialization) is the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ initiative to strengthen innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization across the agricultural ecosystem in Maryland.

According to AGNR Dean Craig Beyrouty, “One of the entry points into incorporating a more robust and organizational approach to innovation and entrepreneurship is through our educational enterprise, by teaching our students the processes, pitfalls, and benefits of taking an idea from the abstract to the marketplace.” 

Cioaca agrees. “Our students certainly benefited from the process and the pitch experience. Although they did not win the ideation competition, our students are moving forward with the Terrapin Tea project. They are currently growing herbs at the UMD Community Learning Garden, and plan to have bags of Terrapin Tea ready to sell during the fall semester.”

“Ideas are only ideas,” says Beyrouty, “until you take them to market and commercialize them.”

IAA students are learning that agriculture is ripe for entrepreneurial initiative, and that they are uniquely qualified to join the campus movement to solve real-world problems fearlessly. 

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