Microfarm startup wins pitch competition

dominion innovation winners

Two food-based startups won a total of $11,000 Tuesday night at Randolph-Macon College. (Mike Platania)

A UVA-born startup focused on water-based gardening is set to sow more seeds after taking home $10,000 in a pitch competition this week.

Charlottesville-based Babylon Micro-Farms, which makes a Keurig-like appliance for growing produce, won Dominion Energy Innovation Center’s 2018 Pitch Competition, held Tuesday at Randolph-Macon College.

Startups pitched to a panel of judges that included Virginia BioTechnology Research Park president and CEO Carrie Roth and Startup Virginia executive director Bryan Bostic. The $10,000 prize was provided by the center, an Ashland-based office and coworking space for startups.

Founded in 2017, Babylon makes a “microfarm,” which grows produce through hydroponics, a gardening method using nutrient-rich water instead of soil as a base to grow plants. Babylon has set up microfarms in some Charlottesville eateries and UVA dining halls.

Other finalists were TMI Consulting, a Richmond-based firm focused on diversity in workplaces, and AnswersNow, an online service connecting parents of autistic children with therapists. AnswersNow was part of Richmond-based accelerator Lighthouse Labs’ 2017 class.

In addition to the startup competition, three R-MC students also pitched for a $1,000 prize, provided by the college’s The Edge Career Center.

Veg Head Foods, a vegan food truck concept by R-MC senior Sheridan Skurupey, won the student competition, beating out tutoring service Meta Language and Northern Virginia United FC, a semi-professional soccer team.

The competition was the second startup pitch contest in the region in recent months.

In November, Capital One held a competition for Lighthouse Labs’ latest class at its West Creek campus. RoundTrip, a non-emergency medical transportation company, won the $5,000 prize. A few weeks later, RoundTrip went live in the Richmond market.

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