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Guelph takes home silver at NAMA student competition

University of Guelph places 2nd in U.S. dominated NAMA competition

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The University of Guelph Canadian Agri-Marketing Association (CAMA) student chapter placed second in the fiercely competitive National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) student competition held in Kansas City, MO. There were 29 teams from across North America, with Guelph being one of only two teams from Canada, along with the University of Saskatchewan.

An eight-month project has come to an end for a group of University of Guelph students, after the team brought home victory at this year’s NAMA student competition. Not only did the team place second, but they also won the hearts of their fellow competitors taking home “most favorite team” award at the week-long competition.  “It was a huge surprise but we were really honoured to win it,” said Emily Den Haan, one of the University of Guelph team leaders of the competition.

Den Hann attributed their success to the team members themselves and the support of CAMA Ontario. “We had great team dynamics and everyone got along really well together,” said Den Hann. This is the third consecutive year that the University of Guelph has made it to the semi-finals and this was the fourth time that the team has made it onto the finals. In the past, Guelph has placed fairly well in the U.S. dominated competition – 2007 placed 3rd, 2004, 2nd and in 2003 placing 1st. 

The team came together in September of 2012, with the members being selected through a rigorous interview process. Once the members were chosen the team began to brainstorm ideas for their product. Den Hann explains that the team found themselves scrambling to find a product idea, after their first concept of an enhanced nutrition spray for apples fell through in November.

In January of this year is when their product idea emerged. Their product was geared towards the aquiculture industry – an aquiculture health management tool for inland fish producers. While the team didn’t know much about the aquiculture industry, it didn’t deter them - in fact, Den Hann said it may have been one of the factors that contributed to their success, explaining as a result a lot of research went into the entire process.

The health management tool acts as a sensor that would sit at the bottom of a pond and would track things like – stalking density, pathogen antibody detection, water PH levels, and dissolved oxygen levels. The sensor would then send back this information to a software computer program for the producer to monitor. The health management tool offers species specific algorithms and provides the producer with the relevant information to know if the fish are a risk of health disease. According to Den Hann, disease accounts for 15% of fish producer’s economic loss, noting that their product was aimed at addressing that particular issue.

In addition to the product idea, the team was required to create an executive summary, which outlined things like market analysis and an action plan. Den Hann said that one of their core marketing strategies was the creation of a branded traveling trailer that would go around to the smaller fish shows, since the majority of fish producers in the U.S. don’t travel far to attend the bigger trade shows .

Den Hann thanked CAMA Ontario and their many sponsors for their continued support, noting that the professionals have a lot to do with the student’s experience. “CAMA Ontario is the backbone of this program and we are really happy that they supported us,” said Den Hann. The group was coached by CAMA liaison Stefanie Nagelschmitz. “She has been fantastic and really helped us through the entire process,” explains Den Hann.

Those interested in either sponsoring or participating in the competition next year are encouraged to contact CAMA Ontario through their website.

The team members included: Rob Bos, Melissa Parkinson, Jeremy Fallis, Eammon McGuinty, Laura Nanne, Emily Den Haan, Jill Brown, Elizabeth Stubbs, and Lucas Meyer.

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