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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Group sprouts fertile business

    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Entrepreneurship seniors Wei-Liang Kao, Amanda Stubbs, Matt Van Horn and Douglas Allen won second place last month at a entrepreneurship competition in Boisie, Idaho. The group is hoping to market their product, an ancient seed known to increase ones health.
    Jake Lacey
    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat Entrepreneurship seniors Wei-Liang Kao, Amanda Stubbs, Matt Van Horn and Douglas Allen won second place last month at a entrepreneurship competition in Boisie, Idaho. The group is hoping to market their product, an ancient seed known to increase one’s health.

    A team of four UA students in the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program hopes to create a new healthy trend by developing and marketing an ancient Aztec seed containing high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids.

    So far, the Strengo Group has succeeded by taking second-place honors in an entrepreneurship competition held last month in Boise, Idaho. While in the Gem State, the group competed against 14 other college teams to develop successful business plans in front of a panel of judges critiquing the feasibility of the projects.

    Strengo Group is helping to produce the salvia hispanica L, or chia seed, as part of a year-long class project with Ricardo Ayerza Jr. and Wayne Coates, who have been working on the project for more than 15 years at the UA.

    “”We’re working to create a demand for this product,”” said Matt Van Horn, general manager of Strengo Group. “”There is a lot of validation for this seed on the market.””

    Strengo Group, which includes marketing manager Amanda Stubbs, financial manager Douglas Allen, product manager Wei-Liang Kao and Van Horn, presented its findings over the course of two rounds in a 15-minute presentation and a 20-minute question-and-answer section at last month’s competition.

    The four student entrepreneurs have trademarked the seed they call Strengo, which Van Horn said is a rough translation of the Latin word for the crop and is similar to the Greek word for strength.

    With a “”booming”” market already in place, the consensus of advice from specialists in nutrition and heart health is that the population at large should continue to ensure intake of the essential omega-3 fatty acids either by eating at least one oily fish meal a week or taking a fish oil supplement, said Coates, an arid lands studies research professor.

    “”The potential for the crop is great. There is a lot of benefits for a wide range of the population. It’s a pretty hot topic in health nationwide.””

    -Wayne Coates
    arid land studies research professor

    With heart disease labeled as the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, people being treated for high triglycerides and/or who have already suffered a heart attack should adhere to medical advice, Coates said.

    “”The potential for the crop is great,”” Coates said. “”There is a lot of benefits for a wide range of the population. It’s a pretty hot topic in health nationwide.””

    But if fish aren’t consuming ample amounts of omega-3 in their own diets, then public consumption of fish is a waste of time, Coates said, adding that a flax seed, most commonly used as a laxative, can be a cure-all to reduce cholesterol levels and to slow prostate cancer growth.

    Group members, who have done their own research, agree.

    “”Omega-3 is essential to the human body because it not only cures heart disease, but it can curb depression, strokes and abnormal brain development,”” said Kao, a senior majoring in management information systems and entrepreneurship.

    Van Horn, a senior majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship, said U.S. consumers perceive only a handful of nutrients as deficient in their diet or critical for their overall health.

    Calcium is the nutrient most likely to be sought by the highest percentage of shoppers (36 percent), followed by Vitamin C (28 percent) and Vitamin E (24 percent). Omega-3 comes in fourth (21 percent), according to the group’s business plan and HealthFocus International Inc., a marketing research and consulting firm specializing in consumer health and nutrition trends.

    Allen, a senior majoring in finance and entrepreneurship, said he didn’t know what to expect before entering the first day of the competition but could tell soon after that the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program had prepared Strengo Group “”above and beyond”” their opponents in the competition.

    While Kao said he and the group were pleased with Strengo Group’s second-place finish last month, he said the group didn’t place first because the judges didn’t want to see such an “”agricultural venture.””

    “”We felt this was something important”” Kao said. “”We felt confident about this venture idea.””

    From here, Allen said Strengo Group will compete in a UA-sponsored entrepreneurship competition later this month and will try to pursue outside funding for the seed in order to put it on store shelves nationwide.

    “”We found the idea fascinating,”” Allen said. “”Now we’re hoping to capitalize on our product’s current success in order to promote the seed across the country.””

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