Grad Students' Cricket-Fortified Pasta Wins Business Pitch Prize
April 27, 2017 5:00 AM
by Geoff Rushton
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A team of Penn State food science graduate students served up pasta made with cricket flour and walked away with a $7,500 prize.

The three-member team Pasta 2050 was awarded the top prize for Ag Springboard earlier this month. The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences event is a judged business pitch competition open to all Penn State students. Ag Springboard is designed to help students learn to pitch a business idea and take the first steps toward entrepreneurship while solving problems in the agricultural sciences.

Pasta 2050's idea is to make pasta using cricket flour because the insects are high in protein and viewed by food scientists as a source of nutrition that can help feed the growing global population. Team members said they saw an opportunity to create a healthier pasta with fewer carbohydrates and higher protein. 

“Since we are food scientists in training, we wanted to have a greater knowledge about business and what’s involved in making a product and how to basically build a brand,” said Lauriel Stewart, a first-year master's degree student, in a release.

Stewart was joined by doctoral students Weslie Khoo and Haoshu Zhang. Their next step will be to produce and market the pasta.

“Taking the steps to make this product a reality is going to be very exciting,” Khoo said.

It wouldn't be the only food product on the market using cricket flour. Chirps Chips, for example, was pitched on the TV show "Shark Tank."

Judges noted that the pasta had a good taste, and one said it was similar to wheat pasta.

A $2,500 second prize was awarded to ModZero, a patent-pending technology for calibrating rifle scopes. ModZero was created by Luke Yost, a Penn State junior studying material science and engineering and a competitive rifle shooter. He teamed with Sam Collins, an agribusiness management student, and Curtis Hershey, an animal science major, to develop the idea.

"Currently, rifle scopes are “zeroed” or calibrated to a single rifle at a time to accurately hit a target, which means shooters must have several scopes and spend time, money and ammunition to calibrate them," a university release explained. "Yost figured out how to reverse engineer the zeroing process, so that the rifle can be zeroed to a scope and a scope swapped among several rifles can still be calibrated."

The ModZero team next will produce final prototypes for the device, then market and raise money through crowd-funding campaign.

“I enjoy witnessing our students as they move forward with their own entrepreneurial journeys," said Mark Gagnon, entrepreneurship coordinator in the College of Agricultural Sciences.. "Experiences like Ag Springboard help develop student entrepreneurial capacities that will certainly improve their career success.”

The 2016 Ag Springboard winner was Blue and White Chips. It went to market last fall as Roy Biv Potato Chips.

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