Innovators developing a low-cost insect-based feed source and a wine pairing system were two food and agriculture recipients of over $110,000 in “The Big Bang” funds announced last week.

The Big Bang!, organized by the Mike and Renee Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, has been helping entrepreneurs start or grow business ventures for almost two decades through the competition, workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities. A record 105 teams competed this year for top concepts in food and agriculture, health, energy efficiency, engineering, clean energy technologies and economic development in California’s Central Valley.

A team of four UC Davis graduate students and a researcher formed BioMilitus to develop the use of low-cost agricultural by-products to produce insects as nutrient-rich ingredients for feed in the poultry and aquaculture industries that doesn’t compete within human food production systems. The firm uses black fly larvae to convert agricultural waste to livestock feed.

The Davis, Calif.–based company won the $10,000 Central Valley Innovation Award, sponsored by UC Merced Venture Lab through Assembly Bill 2664: The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Expansion Bill; the $7,500 People’s Choice Award, sponsored by WilmerHale and HM.CLAUSE; the $3,000 Food, Ag & Health Innovation Award, sponsored by the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health; and $3,000 in services at the UC Davis-HM.CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center. They also received $1,500 in the Little Bang! Pitch and Poster Competition.

“We believe strongly in the sustainability and purpose of our company,” says Lydia Palma, a Ph.D. candidate in Biological Systems Engineering at UC Davis, and co-founder and chief operating officer at BioMilitus. The startup will use its prize money to help secure a location for its pilot plant, acquire equipment and begin production. Over the coming year BioMilitis plans to seek investors and board advisors and then secure a facility and begin larvae production.

PairAnything is on a mission to transform the $70B U.S. wine industry. The Davis, Calif.–based startup took home the $10,000 Food + Agriculture Sector Award, sponsored by AGR Partners and Gowan Co. for a digital platform for wineries to engage customers and extend the personalized experience of the tasting room.

“Consumers gain infinite enjoyment from wine through food pairing education, and spend wisely by buying only the wines they enjoy,” says founder and CEO Christy Serrato, who daylights as program director at the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy.

With PairAnything’s personalization and decisioning logic technology, small, family-owned wineries—which make up 97 percent of wineries—can thrive in the new economy, in which consumers demand individual experiences.

“A year from now, we will have our core platform developed, which will enable the wineries to offload administration of their wine club duties, and benefit from customer analytics to make better business decisions,” Serrato says.

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