By Chad Campbell
Known as the homecoming of Indiana agriculture, nearly 1,500 attendees participated in the festivities of the 2019 Ag Fish Fry. The Purdue University Agricultural Alumni Association recently hosted the annual gala at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.
In a year commemorating Giant Leaps, many utilized the Agriculture Avenue to make strides of their own. Before the Fish Fry’s main event, 42 exhibitors shared their work with the crowd. Exhibits from students, university departments and programs, non-profit and profit organizations, researchers, startups, and sponsors represented the life cycle of business development.
Ronda Hamm, Corteva Agriscience Global Academic Relations Manager, shared why she sees value in their presence at the Fish Fry. “Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, has a strong partnership with Purdue University. We have collaborated on research projects with faculty, provided internships and employment to students, and served as industry mentors. A number of our talented employees are alumni from Purdue University and specifically from the College of Agriculture.”
The Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub designed to support Purdue’s innovators, was well-represented along Agriculture Avenue. Seven Purdue Foundry clients showcased their innovations in what has come to be called the Startup Farm. Companies included GRYFN, Heliponix, JUA Labs, Leaf Spec, NutraMaize, Progeny Drone, and ZeaVaxx.
“The Purdue College of Agriculture has been knee-to-knee with Purdue Foundry over the past five years in creating an entrepreneurship movement throughout the college,” said Resa Hodnett, PR & Events Manager of Purdue Foundry. Hodnett shared available services and funding opportunities, hoping the networking event would catalyze new partnerships.
Many who attended were excited to see the progress of NutraMaize, an exhibitor for three consecutive years. Evan Rocheford, Co-Founder & CEO of NutraMaize, embraced the camaraderie by celebrating the launch of their first product on Amazon, Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. “We were really excited to be able to use the Fish Fry this year to help get the word out about our recent product launch,” said Rocheford. “We've found that Boilermakers will often go out of their way to support each other, so I think we've been able to generate some pretty strong interest since all we’re doing is asking them to try some delicious grits!”
Rocheford attributes much of his success to the agricultural community and Purdue Foundry. “Being a Purdue Foundry company kind of feels like having an older sibling who’s always looking out for you. As an early stage company, you typically don’t have the resources or person power to do everything you feel like you could be doing. So having a team of people at Purdue that are actively looking for and creating opportunities to help you succeed is a serious asset.”
Between first-time meetings and long-awaited reunions, Rocheford passed out samples of his orange corn grits. “The Fish Fry provides a great opportunity for us to interact with the broader Purdue community that we probably wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with around West Lafayette.”
Photos by Tom Campbell