Shawn Kaskie
Center for Rural Research and Development director, 308.865.8135

The “Hazelnut Pilot Project,” a plan to establish a hazelnut industry for food and biodiesel production in central Nebraska, has earned Andrew Pedersen of Grand Island first place and $1,000 in the Central Nebraska Business Idea Contest.

More than 50 people attended the business idea competition that took place at KRave Underground earlier this week and voted for the top three finalists. The contest was the second annual Central Nebraska Business Idea Contest, which was sponsored by the Center for Rural Research and Development at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Pedersen, a UNK graduate student, said: “New varieties of hybrid Hazelnuts have been created by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Badgersett Corporation for the mid-west climate. My project is to apply this work in the field on a small scale at first. In the spring, I plan to begin a Hazelnut project to grow 200 hazelnut shrubs on a two-acre lot near Boelus.” A video of his project can be seen at http://youtu.be/AAM9xUtWuIo.

The first place prize was sponsored by Buffalo County Economic Development Council, second place by the UNK College of Business and Technology, and third place by Invest Nebraska Corporation-Lincoln.

“Evaluations data shows that this event ‘increased the confidence for starting or operating a business’ for 78 percent of submission participants,” said Shawn Kaskie, development director of the Center for Rural Research and Development. “Over half reported they will likely start a business or continue improving their existing venture.”

Second place, and a $500 prize, went to Sandy Evans of Haigler for her idea titled “Bovine Lifelines.” The project can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M9I-MeeJTk&feature=youtu.be.

“With the use of a chip injected into each of your animals, Bovine Lifeline allows you to monitor your herd from the palm of your hand,” Evans said. “Through this chip, you can monitor each animal’s temperature and other vitals as well as GPS location. Therefore, you will not only know when an animal is sick, you will also be able to locate them in your pen or pasture.”

Michael Meyer of Kearney received third place and $250 for his idea “Benefit Houdini,” which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHUHx5oG5AQ&list=UU1U5dwdCZaxD6W_SzNTl7Bg&index=1&feature=plcp.

“Traditionally, the high cost of health care benefits has forced large employers to assume great risk and self-insure their own plans,” Meyer said. “Small employers have been saddled with very high premiums for their employee benefit plans, because it is unwise to incur the great risk self-insurance would create. Enter Benefit Houdini. We pull the best features from both of these approaches and create a hybrid strategy.”

“We join the low cost of self-insurance with the low risk of fully insured and enable the small employer to offer the kind of benefits they want/need to, without breaking the bank in the process,” Meyer said.

The other finalists included Blaine Drozd of Kearney, “Time is Money Commitment”; Chaney Black of Kearney, “Two Rivers Storage”; Tyler Clifford of Kearney, “Alcohol Detector”; Dr. Sri Seshadri of Kearney, “Hotel Cosmos in the Sandhills of Nebraska”; Sam Widger of Kearney, “Inspire”; Steve Wahls of Loomis, “Lawn Debbi”; and Vincent Tesinsky of Weston, “Double Up Feeder.”