College of the Atlantic students Grace Burchard ’17, left, and Anita van Dam ’19, are the force behind [Re]Produce, an <a href="/live/news/1442-coa-startup-wins-umaine-business-challenge">award-winning sustainable business startup</a>. They are pictured here after winning the University of Maine Business Challenge in June 2017.College of the Atlantic students Grace Burchard ’17, left, and Anita van Dam ’19, are the force behind [Re]Produce, an award-winning sustainable business startup. They are pictured here after winning the University of Maine Business Challenge in June 2017.

Grace Burchard ’17 and Anita van Dam ’19 comprise the sustainability-focused [Re]Produce, one of 26 teams competing on Season 3 of the weekly TV entrepreneurial pitch contest Greenlight Maine. 

“This is such a great opportunity for us,” van Dam said. “Even if we don’t win, there’s a strong chance we might connect with potential investors willing to work with us.”

[Re]Produce aims to freeze and sell pre-cut fruits and vegetables from excess and cosmetically imperfect produce from Maine farms. The business focuses on increasing local food access, addressing food waste, and creating extra revenue streams for Maine farmers, van Dam said.

[Re]Produce is a <a href="/live/profiles/1759-sustainable-strategies">sustainable business venture</a> conceived by College of the Atlantic students Grace Burchard ’17, left, and Anita van Dam ’19, right. The startup focuses on making use of cosmetically unmarketable and surplus production from local farms.[Re]Produce is a sustainable business venture conceived by College of the Atlantic students Grace Burchard ’17, left, and Anita van Dam ’19, right. The startup focuses on making use of cosmetically unmarketable and surplus production from local farms.The one-year-old startup has already taken two titles in Maine – winning the Maine Food Systems Innovation Challenge in November 2016 and the UMaine Business Challenge in June of this year.

Van Dam cultivated the idea for [Re]Produce in COA’s Sustainable Strategies course and worked on it with Burchard in a Transforming Food Systems course. The pair honed the idea in COA’s Diana Davis Spencer Hatchery sustainable enterprise accelerator, which is run by COA Sharpe-McNally Chair of Green and Socially Responsible Business Jay Friedlander.

“(Re)Produce really exemplifies what’s possible when students are able to pursue their passions as part of their education,” Friedlander said. “Grace and Anita’s venture demonstrates how approaching a problem from an interdisciplinary perspective could produce effective, positive change in the real world. And their success so far shows that the time is right for this idea.”

COA’s Hatchery provides students with experts in business, PR, and other disciplines to inform their business, $5,000 in seed funding, office resources, and an opportunity to develop a working business prototype. It allows students to follow their desire to solve thorny problems in the world – in this case, the fact that up to 50 percent of fresh foods can go to waste along the modern food chain, Burchard said.

Produce from COA's <a href="/farms/beech-hill-farm/">Beech Hill Farm</a>, one of two farms the college owns. Beech Hill is a certified-organic vegetable farm with ample learning opportunities for students interested in food systems.Produce from COA's Beech Hill Farm, one of two farms the college owns. Beech Hill is a certified-organic vegetable farm with ample learning opportunities for students interested in food systems.“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.”

The invitation to appear on Greenlight Maine came this summer, van Dam said. The pair were able to create a presentation together, largely working over Skype and Google while van Dam was home in Thailand for summer break. Van Dam was not able to attend the filming, but plans to present if the pair make it through to the next round. They’ll find out how they did when the episode airs Nov. 11.

All Greenlight semifinalists receive mentoring from some of Maine’s best and brightest corporate, media and marketing executives as well as extensive promotion across television, print, social and digital media, according to Greenlight.com.

Greenlight Maine is a statewide collaboration of entrepreneurs and corporate leaders, designed to promote and mentor the development and growth of business in our great state. It is produced by Portland Media Group.

The idea for [Re]Produce was cooked up between classes in <a href="/academics/areas-of-study/sustainable-business/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sustainable business</a> with <a href="/live/profiles/1131-jay-friedlander" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jay Friedlander</a> and classes in <a href="/academics/areas-of-study/farming-food-systems/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food systems</a> with <a href="/live/profiles/2754-kourtney-collum" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Dr. Kourtney Collum</a>.The idea for [Re]Produce was cooked up between classes in sustainable business with Jay Friedlander and classes in food systems with Dr. Kourtney Collum. Credit: Ana María Zabala ’20

“All of these innovative and bold Greenlight Maine entrepreneurs have validated that our state is on the fast track to growing our next economy,” show co-founder Brian Corcoran said. “Through private-public collaborations with Maine corporate partners and other state and community leaders, we are pleased to provide necessary intellectual and financial capital necessary to be successful. We are Mainers helping Mainers.”

The COA Hatchery provides eligible students academic credit, professional services and access to seed funding to develop for- or non-profit businesses. The Hatchery allows students to walk the entrepreneurial high wire with a safety net and support.

College of the Atlantic is the first college in the U.S. to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in human ecology – the study of how humans interact with our natural, social and technological environments. Each student develops their own course of study in human ecology, collaborating and innovating across multiple disciplines. Both The Sierra Club and The Princeton Review named College of the Atlantic the #1 Green College in the United States in 2016 and 2017. Learn more at coa.edu.