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UNLV students compete in a 'Shark Tank' style competition

UNLV President's Innovation Challenge
Posted at 9:34 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-07 02:30:04-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Building new ideas to move Las Vegas forward. UNLV hosted the first competition where student teams pitched their business ideas.

The objective?

To aim to diversify the valley’s economy and make it sustainable.

“Today we are excited to unveil a new product that will not only diversify southern Nevada’s economy, but also introduce some needed nutrients and fresh greens to our desert population.”

That was the opening line for Team Esenjays’ big idea, a fully automated garden that will produce fresh microgreens. One team member said it will help our environment while also improving the health of our young people.

“It’s going to improve nutrition for elementary schools everywhere,” said Jonathan Kim, a UNLV graduate student.

It was all part of UNLV’s President’s Innovation Challenge, a "Shark Tank" style competition featuring nine teams pitching their ideas to 12 judges.

“There were a lot of great teams, a lot of great ideas in there,” said Jacob Gross, a UNLV undergraduate student. "You’re kind of listening to other people present thinking, ‘Okay, I don’t know if we have a chance’."

But Team Esenjays took their chance and won the $25,000 grand prize. The judges choosing their pitch believing it will help enhance the economy of Southern Nevada. One judge, Latin Chamber of Commerce president Peter Guzman says it’s important that the valley’s economy diversifies.

“Other industries here will support our hospitality and tourism industries so it’s not like it will hurt one or the other,” he said. "It will enhance all of them."

Team Esenjays says the money helps, and they’re already getting interest from outside buyers.

“We were just approached by a local chef who said that they’re interested in using our product,” said G Liu, a UNLV graduate student.

Guzman says he’s optimistic about the Silver State’s future after seeing the ideas at this competition.

“UNLV has the entrepreneur spirit, and that’s a great thing for us, so I think the future’s bright,” he said.

The first-place winner wasn’t the only one that won money, with second and third place winning $15,000 and $10,000 respectively.