Kentucky Chia took first place in the graduate business plan division, claiming more than $35,000 in prize money. The team of four master of business administration students are preparing to start domestic production of an edible chia seed that helps prevent two fatal horse diseases.

Other UofL teams placing first in the April 20-21 contest in Lexington were:

  • VOC Diagnostics, which won more than $5,500 for its idea to develop a breath test for early diagnosis of lung cancer
  • EcoVision Development, which won more than $1,500 for its idea to create a manufacturing plan for highly affordable energy-efficient modular homes

Three UofL students also took individual honors in the contest’s “elevator pitch” competition, an event that requires students to interest potential investors in their business idea in 60 seconds or less.

Joanna Cruz of Kentucky Chia placed first and Bayard Donaldson of VOC Diagnostics earned an honorable mention in the graduate elevator pitch event, while Frank Gulla of EcoVision Development earned an honorable mention in the undergraduate event.

All eight of Kentucky’s four-year state universities vied for prizes at Idea State U this year.

Kentucky Chia will compete May 2-5 in the Venture Labs Investment Competition at the University of Texas at Austin, an event known as the “Super Bowl” of business plan contests. Last year, TNG Pharmaceuticals, a UofL team commercializing a patented horn fly vaccine for cattle, took top honors in that contest, raising its total earnings to more than $800,000.