Student teams from the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno took second and fourth place during the recent Student Food Marketing Challenge at the Food Distribution Research Society annual meeting in New Orleans, La.
The University's teams competed against 17 other universities, including Colorado State, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, Florida, Ohio State and Texas A&M.
In a whirlwind effort on Nov. 3-4, teams were asked to apply their knowledge of food distribution, economics, management, marketing and/or merchandising in a real-world situation concerning the sugar refinery industry.
On Saturday, Nov. 3, a representative from the Sugar Cane Growers Association presented the challenge for teams to develop a plan of action and budget for a proposed sugar refinery, as well as how the resulting product could be marketed to end users.
For the next seven hours, teams crafted their bids and presentations, then competed in a preliminary round that evening. The top teams from the preliminary heats advanced to the finals on the morning of Sunday, Nov. 4.
"To create a presentation in seven hours without notes, that's a pretty challenging thing to do," said Kynda Curtis, assistant professor of resource economics at the University. Students in Curtis' APEC 425 class comprised the two Nevada teams. "Both of our teams did a great job, considering the challenging content and timelines they were facing. It was a great 'real world' exercise in that they had to deal with deadline stress and a workload that related to a real product."
According to one of the team members, 22-year-old agriculture applied economics major Joey Adrian from Escalon, Calif., the competition was a "great experience."
"I wasn't really stressed out," Adrian said. "I knew we would get the work done and do well. I was confident in our team. We did a lot of research about the sweetener industry beforehand (all competing teams were given the general topic of the sweetener industry as their only pre-competition background information), so I knew we had a competitive advantage going into the competition.
"Taking second place didn't really surprise me. Our team did a real good job of working together. We recognized each other's strengths and put that to our advantage."
Adrian said a nice byproduct of the competition was the locale: "It was a great experience to get to go down and visit New Orleans during the competition. Bourbon Street was a blast. We all enjoyed ourselves."
Other team members included: Jason Entsminger, Carol Bishop, Hitomi Yamashita, Megan Jackson, Maura Bradbury, Wyatt Hanson and Christopher Robison. Curtis said all team members were either upperclassmen or graduate students in the college.
"The students don't receive any extra credit for the competition, but it's an experience they're not normally going to get in school," Curtis said. "They get a chance to meet other students from other schools. They get to think about what they've learned in the classroom and apply it in a real-world situation.
"And of course, going to a competition and having success makes them feel good about themselves, and what they are learning."
Along with a plaque, the second-place team also received prize money for its effort, with the top three teams splitting $1,000 in prize money.