Knoxville business startups compete for $25,000 prize


KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Six business teams have earned finalist positions in the Tennessee Venture Challenge grand finale, competing for up to a $25,000 prize.

The event is being held April 6 at the Foundry, 747 World’s Fair Park Drive from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., hosted by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation. Admission is free, but registration is required online.

The six startups will pitch their ideas to a panel of seasoned investors. Audience members will also have the opportunity to text in their favorite, which will receive a $5,000 cash prize. The panel will then select an overall winner for a $20,000 prize. Second and third place will receive $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.

The six companies that advanced to the finals are:

Team: Farm Specific Technology

Product: Flex Roller Crimper

Jackson-based Farm Specific Technology (FarmSpec) team lead Shawn Butler, a graduate research assistant at UT’s West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, along with team members Austin Scott and Daniel Wiggins, are working together to patent the Flex Roller Crimper, a flexible twist on a piece of farm equipment used to manage cover crops and get rid of pesky weeds.

Team: T&T Scientific Corporation

Product: Cell Membrane Measurement System

University of Tennessee students Graham Taylor, a PhD student in biomedical engineering, and Nima Tamadonni, a PhD student in mechanical engineering, are leveraging their experience in the laboratory setting to help researchers in bio-engineering, electrophysiology, biophysics and molecular pathology increase efficiency.

Team: Peroxygen Systems, Inc.

Product: Onsite Hydrogen Peroxide Production

Ming Qi, a former postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tennessee, is changing the cumbersome hydrogen peroxide production and delivery process, making it not only energy efficient but cost effective. Hydrogen peroxide is used for its oxidizing properties, working as a bleaching agent and as a disinfectant against bacteria, viruses, spores and yeasts.

Team: TechSmarrt

Product: Data Analysis Software Specializing in Structural Information Extraction

A team of doctoral candidates at the University of Tennessee Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education have cracked the code that cuts research time for scientists analyzing materials. Led by Akinola Oyedele, TechSmarrt software provides a turn key solution for researchers to identify and understand the properties of new and existing materials.

Team: Iono Pharma

Product: Transdermal Microemulsion Nanotechnology for Iodine Deficiency

Dr. Hassan Almoazen, Director of the PhD program in Pharmaceutical Sciences and the dual degree PharmD/PhD program at the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy in Memphis, has developed a new approach (patent pending) to deliver iodide ion to millions of children worldwide. He envisions the product to be marketed as an over the counter and without a prescription. Without sufficient iodine in the body’s system, mental retardation and developmental growth delay can occur. 

Team: CZ Nutrition

Product: Protein Drink

Dr. Qixin Zhong, professor with the University of Tennessee Department of Food and Science Technology, has invented a technology to produce clear protein drinks that are easy on the palette, rich in nutrients and sugar free.

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