[Re]Produce is a sustainable business venture conceived by College of the Atlantic students Grace Burchard ’17, left, and Anita van Dam ’19.[Re]Produce is a sustainable business venture conceived by College of the Atlantic students Grace Burchard ’17, left, and Anita van Dam ’19.ORONO — [Re]Produce, a sustainable farm-surplus startup pioneered by College of the Atlantic students Anita van Dam ’19 and Grace Burchard ’17, has won the sixth annual University of Maine Business Challenge. The placement comes with a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of Business Lending Solutions, which will provide the winners with an additional $5,000 of in-kind services.

“With this win we got a lot closer to making this dream a reality,” Burchard said. The prize money will help the pair launch [Re]Produce in Portland in fall 2017.

For the competition, van Dam and Burchard performed a live-pitch of their company, which addresses food waste in Maine by creating market value for farm surplus and cosmetically imperfect vegetables. The team competed against four other finalists, including graduate and undergraduate students from University of Maine and Southern Maine Community College.

“One of the judges said that our timing is ‘impeccable,’” van Dam said. “People are becoming more aware about food justice issues, and food waste is on top on that list.”

Burchard and van Dam were chosen for the UMaine Challenge out of 45 competition entrants. The billing follows their success in Nov. 2016, when they split for first place at the Maine Food Systems Innovation Challenge at Bowdoin College.

[Re]Produce, a sustainable business venture conceived by College of the Atlantic students Grace Burchard ’17, left, and Anita van Dam ’19, right, aims to alleviate the waste of cosmetically unsaleable produce by freezing and selling it.[Re]Produce, a sustainable business venture conceived by College of the Atlantic students Grace Burchard ’17, left, and Anita van Dam ’19, right, aims to alleviate the waste of cosmetically unsaleable produce by freezing and selling it. Credit: Ana María Zabala ’20

“We are excited to provide an outlet for consumers to know that they are helping to solve an external problem when they buy our product,” van Dam said. “We are not only a local operation but are helping farmers and alleviating food waste.”

Van Dam developed the idea for [Re]Produce while taking COA’s Sustainable Strategies course with Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business Jay Friedlander. She and Burchard are now partnered in Friedlander’s Sustainable Business Hatchery, where they have developed prototypes and tested their business plans.

[Re]Produce, a sustainable business venture conceived by College of the Atlantic students Anita van Dam ’19 and Grace Burchard ’17, wins $5,000 at the 2017 University of Maine Business Challenge Finals.[Re]Produce, a sustainable business venture conceived by College of the Atlantic students Anita van Dam ’19 and Grace Burchard ’17, wins $5,000 at the 2017 University of Maine Business Challenge Finals.“Food systems stand at the intersection of almost all sciences, human interactions, and cultures,” Burchard said. “This is about taking our passions into the real world.”

According to Maine Startups Insider, van Dam and Burchard are eyeing a facility in Portland where they hope to launch the business this fall. Their current plan is to market towards millennials, because they have more passion for food security and climate justice issues and will use their food buying power to encourage change, van Dam said.

The six-year-old University of Maine business competition, which is open to all colleges and universities in Maine, is presented by Business Lending Solutions. It is held annually and is hosted in Orono.