Working Landscapes staff and MBA students in Warrenton, NC.

October/November 2016 — NC Growing Together has been sponsoring MBA student teams from NC State University’s Poole College of Management to investigate food business processes and supply chain issues across the local-to-mainstream food supply chain since 2013.

In spring 2016, a team worked with Hillsborough-based NCGT partner Seal the Seasons, a local frozen produce company that freezes fresh North Carolina fruits and vegetables in order to make local produce available year-round. The students examined the business case for expansion from retail grocery to food service markets. The team considered local market conditions, conducted financial modeling for the institutional market, and made product-specific recommendations.

“It was really helpful to have excited, interested students working on this project. They were responsive, inquisitive, and thought outside the box,” said Seal the Seasons C.E.O. Patrick Mateer. The team recommended that Seal the Seasons market a frozen corn product in addition to its frozen berry products, and recommended purchasing a corn kernel remover to save time and labor costs in processing the corn.

“This confirms what we thought,” said Mateer, “and gives us the research and data to move forward with confidence. Now we can focus on bringing more farmers into the organization and get working in new markets.” The report also confirmed that Seal the Season can operate profitability selling into food service markets with the right pricing structure.

“We’re already selling into UNC, and will be pursuing additional schools and hospitals,” says Mateer. In addition to corn, the company will also be looking at branching out into additional fruits and vegetables in 2017. Find the full report, Seal the Seasons: The Business Case for Expansion into Food Service Markets on the NCGT website.

Also in spring 2016, an MBA student team produced a Pastured Poultry Feasibility Study for Spirit Level Farm in Rutherfordton. Last year, MBA student teams conducted a Feasibility Study for a Shrimp Processing Line, and reported on Best Practices and Metrics for Dairy Farms Transitioning Conventional Dairy Operations to On-Farm Value-Added Production.

An MBA team is currently working with NCGT partner Working Landscapes to conduct a feasibility study of the non-profit producing a local frozen meatball product.

For more information on NCGT’s work with MBA student teams, student researchers, and student apprentices, contact Rebecca Dunning.

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2016 NC Growing Together Newsletter.