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Cultivate a Startup

The goal of Cultivate.CAFLS is to enable undergraduate students in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) to develop their own entrepreneurial experience. Student teams can secure seed funding to make their ideas for an innovative product a reality.

For More Information:
Contact Andrew Hurley

Apply Online

Students do not need to wait until graduation to cultivate their business idea. Participation in Cultivate.CAFLS is open to all Clemson University undergraduate students, however each student team of five members maximum must have a strict majority of undergraduate students with a CAFLS major and must be mentored by a CAFLS faculty member. Benefits of becoming an entrepreneur at Clemson include opportunities to receive $30,000+ in funding, faculty mentorship, free legal consulting, IP protection, and network expansion.

Cultivate.CAFLS Requirements

Application Process

  1. Attend the Unleash Creativity Workshop on September 6 at 7:00pm to brainstorm ideas and receive guidance on developing a quick pitch. (P&A F149)
  2. Complete the online application by September 29 at 5:00pm to register for the Seed Funding Pitch.
  3. Compete in the Seed Funding Pitch on October 4 at 6:00pm for a chance to receive $500 in seed funding for your idea. (P&A F149)

If your team receives seed funding, your team will also:

  1. Attend the Ideation Expansion and Networking Seminar on October 25 at 6:00pm to receive guidance and strategies from mentors and experienced entrepreneurs.
  2. Create a 3-minute pitch and 30-second commercial.
  3. Participate in the Rehearsal Dinner on November 15 at 6:00pm to practice your pitch and receive feedback from faculty, staff, and students.
  4. Pitch your idea at the CAFLS Pitch Competition on January 19 at 6:00pm for a chance to win up to $2000 to develop your business idea.
  5. Participate in the CAFLS Entrepreneurs Meet & Greet as part of the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership entrepreneurship week in March.

The winner of the Cultivate.CAFLS Pitch Competition will also pitch at the Walter Hunter Business Plan Competition and Lecture Series Pitch Smackdown in April. Other teams are also welcome to apply for the University-wide competition.

Additional Details:

  • Seed funding is managed by the CAFLS faculty mentor.
  • Teams must have a CAFLS faculty mentor before seed funding can be awarded. However, it is highly recommended that teams at least initiate discussion with potential faculty mentors before the Seed Funding Pitch.
  • Teams awarded seed funding are also required to submit their commercial and a short, written overview of their business idea to the office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs by January 31.


The culminating event of Cultivate.CAFLS is the Cultivate.CAFLS Pitch Competition where students pitch their business ideas to a panel of entrepreneurial experts.

December 2022

  • 1st Place, Hinson Family Farms

    Hinson Family Farms

    $2,000 - Agricultural Sciences

    Team Member
    Kinlyn Hinson, Agricultural Education

    Hinson Family Farms is a six-generation grit farm operation. Grown, packaged, and shipped directly from the family farm, Hinson Family Farms aims to bridge the gap between agriculture education and the general public. As of 2022, Hinson Family Farms has sold 180,000 units and intends to utilize the opportunity Cultivate.CAFLS provides in order to purchase a travel trailer. With this trailer, the operation can become mobile and demonstrate what agriculture truly is to consumers everywhere. After all, without agriculture, where would we be?

  • 2nd Place, Voney


    $1,500 - Food, Nutrition and Packaging Science

    Team Member
    Javin Goodine, Food, Nutrition and Culinary Sciences
    Brennan Lytle, Packaging Science
    Luke Watrous, Packaging Science
    Remy Schimick, Packaging Science
    Emmery Sayers, Packaging Science
    Brysen Nelson, Packaging Science 

    Honey is one of the most versatile foods in the world. It is found in more places than just a plastic bear jar on a shelf. It is used in everything from breads, cured meats, cereal, condiments, pharmaceuticals and even skincare products. The annual consumption of honey is constantly increasing in the US, creating a demand too difficult for beekeepers to manage. As a result, the majority of honey is imported and adulterated, providing a product of lesser quality to consumers.

    Additionally, veganism is on the rise. With a plethora of vegan alternatives for just about everything, honey is one product that has not been expanded upon. Look no further than Voney–a plant based alternative to honey made from apples, tea and sugar. Not only is it a healthier alternative thanks to antioxidants, it has a similar appearance and flavor profile to honey, meaning consumers receive all of the delicious taste and none of the adulteration!

  • 3rd Place, Upgrain


    $1,000 - Food, Nutrition and Packaging Science

    Team Member
    Toni Sharp, Food, Nutrition and Packaging Science
    Sara Abbett Kirven, Packaging Science
    DeAundre Cooley, Packaging Science
    Kirsty McLaren, Packaging Science
    Emily Stacy, Packaging Science

    Many meal bars on grocery shelves have a negative environmental impact, be it non-recyclable or compostable metallized films or inefficient use of remaining ingredients. The smaller decision of purchasing an unsustainable meal bar plays into the larger global issue of around $1 trillion dollars worth of food waste and 10 million tons of plastic packaging landfilled in the US each year.

    This is where Upgrain comes in. Upgrain is a delicious oat-based bar made with upcycled barley, also known as “spent grains.” Spent grains are the high fiber, high protein barley leftover after beer making that are then dried and ground into a flavorless powder. In addition, Upgrain meal bars use curbside recyclable packaging. This bar helps divert plastic pollution from landfills and eliminate food waste, creating a closed loop, sustainable food system. Upgrain is a bar that consumers can feel good about knowing snacking never did so much good!

  • Audience Favorite, Recheesable


    $500 - Food, Nutrition and Packaging Science

    Team Member
    Deb Hutchins, Food, Nutrition and Packaging Science
    Riley DeKrafft, Graphic Communications
    Copeland Reed, Packaging Science
    Clare Sumners, Packaging Science
    Sarah Dumont, Packaging Science 

    When it comes to blocks of cheese, consumers are looking for resealable cheese packaging that easily opens and closes, while maintaining the freshness of the cheese within. Enter Recheesable: Specialized plastic cheese packaging with an easy-tear, air-tight seal prior to opening and an even easier to use reusable adhesive closure. Not only does this packaging technology eliminate the need for a zip-top plastic bag, it also maintains the correct conditions for prolonged storage. Ditch the extra bag so we can all say “Cheeeese!”

March 2022

  • 1st Place, Blooms & Buds

    Blooms and Buds

    Team Members
    Mark Burns, Horticulture
    Abigail Gibson, Ag Business
    Weston Whitfield, Packaging Science

    The floriculture industry has been a thriving segment of agribusiness across the globe with the advent of Floral Shops and services at the beginning of the industrial age in the late 1800s. A recent study by the Greenhouse Industry indicates that Gen Y consumers are significantly less likely to have a high appreciation of flowers, give flowers as gifts, and differentiate florists from other gift retailers and/or purchase mixed flowers. This data suggests that for floral businesses to expand their market share to younger populations, an effort to market flower purchases have meaning beyond the plant purchase is a possible method to attract younger consumers to become loyal floral customers. This project will explore a marketing approach that capitalizes on the concept of a sustainable and environmental beneficial plant and package to entice young consumers to give sustainable blooms and buds. This will be done in the production process of flowers and sustainable recyclable packaging to ship or share the flower purchase.

  • 2nd Place, Biopack Kudzu Plastic

    Biopack Kudzu Plastic

    Team Members
    Sneh Bangar, Food, Nutrition & Packaging Sciences
    Cayden Gates Food, Nutrition & Packaging Sciences

    In the past few decades, the production and application of plastic have escalated due to wide availability, cost-effectiveness, and excellent mechanical properties. However, plastic waste is low biodegradable and significantly contributes to environment pollution. Due to the highest consumption of plastic, packaging industries have become the primary source of plastic waste accumulation at an alarming rate. Therefore, there is an urgency to introduce environment-friendly packaging materials that are durable and cost-effective.

    Natural polymers have been explored as potential alternatives to conventional packaging material. Among biopolymers, starch stands out as the future green biopolymer because of its abundant availability, renewability, eco-friendliness, and degree of functionality. However, poor processibility, restricted tensile strength, and high-water absorption capacity of starch films limit their practical applications. Recent research has shown that chemical modifications of starch and reinforcement with other polymers can improve the mechanical, thermal, and barrier properties of starch films. Cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) extracted from plant tissues have shown promise to improve properties of natural polymers by improving crystallinity, mechanical strength, surface area, and active binding sites.

    Kudzu is an invasive weed which has aggressively invaded over three million hectares in US. Kudzu is extremely bad for the ecosystems and infrastructure, including shading out native vegetation, altering soil chemistry, decreasing native biodiversity, and destroying power lines/ structures. It would be beneficial if kudzu is utilized to extract CNCs to reinforce starch-based films.

    Therefore, developing starch-based films ovide commercial use of invasive weed but also offer a sustainable option for packaging industry.

  • 3rd Place, Kerby's Kritters

    Kerby’s Kritters

    Team Member
    Julia Kerber, Animal and Veterinary Sciences with a concentration in Agribusiness

    I plan to advance my entrepreneurial project Kerby's Kritters. Kerby's Kritters is a pet boarding, grooming, and daycare service that will be located in South Carolina. We will specialize in dogs but welcome other household pets to board when owners are away on vacation. Daycare services will be offered on weekdays for dogs to socialize and exercise while owners are working or running errands. The dogs will be allowed to play in groups to enhance their social skills and playtime activities. We will offer grooming services with a certified groomer and boarding all year long for a variety of household pets. When boarding, there will be a variety of addons that owners can purchase to make each pet's stay memorable and enjoyable. There will also be a small store upfront with pet essentials and cute gifts for sale. Overall, I want to create a fun and safe experience for pets at a country styled kennel run by passionate and experienced staff. Kerby's Kritters will give pets time to socialize and exercise while at daycare and boarding, a secure and comfortable area at night, and beautifying makeovers in grooming.

students listening to speaker during Spiro Institute startup talk

Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership

The Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership helps Clemson students, faculty, staff, and alumni develop an entrepreneurial mindset, a way of thinking, motivated by visions of their personal leadership impacts and ownership. Personal fulfillment is at the heart of all our program objectives. We know that personal fulfillment is a prerequisite for enduring wealth creation

Visit the Spiro Institute's Website
CAFLS Advantage
CAFLS Advantage | 101 Barre Hall Clemson, SC 29634 864-656-3013