Having grown up on a four-generation family farm in Calhoun (S.C.) County, Hunter Carson ’18 learned the ins and outs of agriculture at an early age.
When the 22-year-old entered Clemson University’s MBAe program, his entrepreneurial energies were focused on finding efficiencies that would benefit his family’s row-crop farming operation. His idea and the resulting start-up recently captured first place in the MBAe program’s 7th Annual EnterPrize competition, which hosts shark tank-like events in Charleston, Columbia and a finale in Greenville.
Ag Comps is the business Hunter launched in February that enables cotton farmers to price search and choose the company that is offering the highest price for their commodity by seeing price quote comparisons.
Hunter said farmers’ current method of finding buyers for their cotton entails phone calls between the farmer, a cotton gin and potential purchasers. But in the time it takes that process to unfold, prices can change, depending on the volume of the product that is moving through the market.
“Ag Comps allows farmers to shop their own prices directly with buyers and gives farmers prices being offered by a variety of buyers,” said Hunter, a native of Lone Star, S.C., where his family farms 1,000 acres. “It essentially eliminates having to go through a middle person and enables farmers to see all the pricing offers in their area, so they can make an informed decision.”
Hunter said bypassing the cotton gin in the buying and selling process is good for all parties, as buying and selling is an ancillary role gins perform beyond their primary function of removing seeds from the cotton lint before baling and storing the product. This also allows farmers to have price transparency so they can receive the highest price possible.
The potential for Ag Comps in the cotton industry appears bright. South Carolina produced more than 470,000 bales of cotton in 2017, according to the USDA. And cotton production topped 19 million bales nationwide that year.
But the potential for Ag Comps may not be limited to cotton. In the future, the start-up could expand into other commodities and help farmers with all of their booking needs.
“Right now, Ag Comps is sticking with the cotton industry, because it’s a business I know well. Our company is in its early stages. The next phase will be securing funding to fully develop it for the complete, real-time transaction,” Hunter said.
Hunter is the first entrepreneur in EnterPrize’s history to win all three events, including the finale in Greenville where 25 start-ups pitched their ideas. As the triple-crown winner, he earned $18,000 of the total purse of $26,000 available in the three venues.
Finishing in second place at the Greenville finale was Lucas Cuadros, whose Unblended is a marketing asset tool that focuses on bringing transparency to critical supply chains. The full-time MBAe student won $3,000.
Austin Shirley finished in third place with his Semio start-up, a skin graft wound-healing technology. Austin’s $3,000 prize money included a second-place finish in the Charleston competition.
Judges for the Greenville event included, Steve Schofield, MBAe grad, Nautic Brewing (Greenville, coming winter 2019); Shontavia Johnson, associate VP for academic partnerships & innovation, Clemson; Lendell Porterfield, CEO, Porterfield, Fettig & Sears, LLC; and Susan Zimmerman, MBAe grad, Bohicket Road.
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