Seal the Seasons, a for-profit social enterprise founded by students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, won the $50,000 2015 SECU Emerging Issues Prize for Innovation February 10 by the Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at North Carolina State University. The contest challenged student teams at North Carolina’s two- and four- year colleges and universities to creatively address social, economic and health issues affecting the state.
Canopy Scientific from Duke University was the first runner-up, receiving a $25,000 prize.
Seal the Seasons co-founders Patrick Mateer and William Chapman entered the contest with a plan to increase the amount of locally produced food in mainstream supply chains in North Carolina. They also want to create markets for USDA Grade B produce and eliminate food deserts by chopping, flash freezing and distributing blemished produce.
“Flash freezing is an innovative way to introduce healthy food into the food retail market because the quick freezing method prevents spoilage and allows the nutritional quality of fruits and vegetables to be retained for up to one year,” Mateer said. “The method extends the seasonal availability of produce beyond the harvest season, and freezing equipment allows produce to be frozen on a large scale.”
Seal the Seasons was co-founded in the fall of 2013 by Daniella Uslan, Patrick Mateer, and William Chapman. After participating in the Launching the Venture course at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, in January 2014 Seal the Seasons was admitted into CUBE, the social innovation start-up incubator located in the Campus Y at UNC Chapel Hill. CUBE has since provided Seal the Seasons with legal assistance, one-on-one mentoring and $5,000 of seed funding, CUBE Director Mathilde Verdier said.
Seal the Seasons also received $2,000 in support from the Carolina Center for Public Service as a Community Engagement Fellowship in 2014.
Mateer said the $50,000 prize money will allow the organization to transition from initial production to longer term sustainability by bolstering the production capacity required to meaningfully impact the local food market.
By Tom Sowders, Campus Y