Business plan competition helps launch energy-saving
(Editor's note: Full-length version of story.)
Justin Jamison admits he's always been a little
obsessed with dairy production and how it fits into a sustainable food
"For thousands of years, cultures have revolved around some kind of
dairy industry," says the University of Maine graduate student in
business administration. "And what I really love about dairy are the
different products you can make from it as part of sustainable
Jamison's vision is to one day have a microdairy specializing in organic
milk as part of a natural foods retail store, specializing in local
produce and products. He shared his entrepreneurial spirit and
enthusiasm for local food production and promotion with MBA classmate
Brooks Einstein and, together, they developed a business plan for
launching a microdairy to supply local organic milk to the Bangor area.
In February, their concept for Local Food Solutions got one step closer
to reality with a $5,000 boost as the top prize in the 2007-08 Green
Products Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the University of
Maine's Foster Student Innovation Center.
In the Green Products Business Plan Competition, participants describe
the commercialization of a green product made from biobased, recycled or
recyclable materials, or a technology that reduces environmental
pollution or produces renewable energy. The top three winners receive
money to launch their start-up businesses with the guidance of the
Foster Student Innovation Center.
This year, four teams entered the competition. Last year, the debut of
the contest, there were three teams. Last year's winners were civil
engineering graduate student Jeremy Labbe and his partner, UMaine
graduate Adam Paradis, for plans to establish an ethanol plant fueled by
cull potatoes and other agricultural waste.
"I'm a big dreamer," says Jamison, who graduated from UMaine's
Sustainable Agriculture Program in 1996. "I'm always thinking of a
thousand cool things I could do, but I try and be as efficient as
possible, seeing opportunities and doing what fits. I've been successful
at farms with that philosophy, and only hope that it will work in
starting a business."
Jamison has spent the past dozen years working on three of UMaine's
farms. He was superintendent of Highmoor Farm in Monmouth before
returning to Orono in 2004 to manage the J.F. Witter Teaching and
Research Farm and Rogers Farm.
Einstein has retail experience working for Whole Foods Market, one of
the largest retailers of natural and organic foods.
Jamison's days overseeing the student dairy cooperative at Witter and
his work with an organic dairy farmer in Charleston inspired Jamison to
look into supplying a local market with local product.
"The majority of organic milk in stores is processed out of state and
shipped back," Jamison says. "The advantage of microprocessing is to not
only keep the milk local, but to keep individual farms' milk separate.
That really allows people to identify where their food comes from."
The prize money from the Green Products Competition will fund market
research to determine such critical factors as the extent of the
consumer base and how much organic milk the facility would have to
process annually to be viable.
"Local Food Solutions could be like Tom's of Maine for local foods,"
says Jamison, who will resign his farm management duties in June to
pursue his graduate studies and the business plan full time. "I plan to
stay involved in business and agriculture. I like being able to tell the
story about the farming system and the people who help make it."
UMaine Today Magazine
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