MEDIA CONTACTS:Emily Grebenstein: [email protected], 202-994-3087Jason Shevrin: [email protected], 202-994-5631

Newswise — WASHINGTON (April 22, 2016)—A futuristic farming model that uses 90 percent less water and 80 percent less fertilizer than traditional farms by HomeGrown Farms won first place at this year’s New Venture Competition sponsored by the George Washington University. The system, built inside a 320-foot shipping container, uses no herbicides or pesticides and produces no environmentally dangerous runoff. In addition to the first place overall prize, the team won nine supplemental cash and in-kind prizes at the April 19 competition, totaling more than $74,000.

“HomeGrown has the great combination of meeting a need, resonating with people and they’ve worked out the technology. They’ve engineered a successful system,” said Lex McCusker, director of the New Venture Competition. “And like every good social venture, it holds up financially as well.”

The design team includes Parth Chauhan, a 2013 graduate of GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA), Pranav Kaul, a senior at ESIA as well as two of Mr. Chauhan’s childhood friends, Raghav Garg and Zeel Patel.

HomeGrown’s next step, with the help of their winnings, will be to invest in a new LED system and start expansion to a warehouse-sized space. The four team members plan to quit their current jobs and focus on HomeGrown full time.

Ventures addressing social needs made a strong showing in this year’s competition that rewards innovation and entrepreneurship, with three of the four overall top-placing teams, including HomeGrown, coming from the GWUpstart Social Innovation Lab track.

Mental Health Promotion, which took second prize, is a nonprofit that integrates mental health education into existing high school health classes across the country.

Represently, a management system that organizes elected officials’ messages from constituents, received the third overall prize. The Rooftop Tea Company, which empowers women tea growers in the Middle East and gives fair trade consumers full transparency about the provenance of their brew, took fourth.

Social entrepreneurship has been such a vibrant category at GW, in fact, that contestants also have seen success at other competitions that offer start-up funding, with the Rooftop Tea Company placing second and winning $15,000 at the Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition in Texas.

The Tuesday night ceremony included a keynote by Gary Swart, general partner with Polaris Partners and former CEO of oDesk, now Upwork, which connects freelancers with employers.

The New Venture Competition, now in its eighth year, is organized by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship within the Office of the Vice President for Research and is the fifth largest collegiate entrepreneurship competition in the United States. The 2016 competition started with 106 teams vying for the final 10 slots. This year, awardees took home $130,000 in cash and $140,000 in in-kind prizes, totaling more than $850,000 awarded since its inception.

If the trajectory of last year’s winning venture is any indication, the possibilities are enormous. The food waste reducing MEANS Database was working in five states when it took first prize at the competition in 2015. It now has partners in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

Click here for a full list of the 2016 New Venture Competition winners.  Multimedia Resources• Click here for photos. The George Washington UniversityIn the heart of our nation’s capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from across the country and around the world.