It’s been six months since Kadeema Jean won the inaugural UFA Student Pitch Competition in partnership with Olds College and since then, a lot has happened for the young student entrepreneur!
Kadeema won the competition with an innovative plant alternative to plastics. While not familiar to Canadians, dasheen, or taro, is a common root vegetable found in Kadeema’s native country, Dominica, which is an island just north of St. Lucia. Kadeema often jokes that Dominica is not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, they are two very different locales. Dasheen is a starchy tuber which also happens to be water resistant and very durable, and with Dominica focused on finding alternatives to plastics, Kadeema recognized that dasheen could be a viable substitute.
As part of her agriculture degree at Olds College, Kadeema recently completed a work practicum at Poplar Bluff Organics farm near Strathmore, Alberta. In addition to growing new organic crops, her internship afforded her the opportunity to experiment with growing her own dasheen plants and she is optimistic about the progress. Working and living at the farm, Kadeema gained valuable hands-on experience furthering her passion for all things agriculture. And when the Innovation Team at UFA learned that Kadeema’s practicum would be coming to an end, they jumped at the chance to offer her the opportunity to join them in a co-operative student placement role.
“Having Kadeema join UFA is a win-win for everyone,” says Janay Meisser, Director of Innovation at UFA. “Our co-operative benefits from a bright, energetic and ambitious mind like Kadeema’s, who also helps us to see things with new perspective, and Kadeema is able to benefit, not only from working in the agriculture sector, but from working in the innovation space. We are thrilled that she accepted the offer.”
The past six months have been challenging for many, Kadeema included. But this young dynamo is used to rising to a challenge and pushing herself out of her comfort zone. Prior to moving to Canada, Kadeema attended Dominica State College and was the top student in her Associate Degree in Agriculture. It was her sister who suggested she move overseas, to study at Olds College, and Kadeema was all in. She made the long journey to the prairies, arriving at the Olds College campus with fall and winter on the horizon; and new to everything. Today, Kadeema is settling into her new position at UFA along with settling into her new apartment, in Calgary.
“I’m so excited to be living in Calgary and to be working for UFA,” she says. “I want to thank the co-operative for giving me the opportunity to continue learning and growing and to be part of innovation.”
We are looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Kadeema! Watch for exciting news in November when we announce the semi-finalists for the next UFA Student Pitch Competition to be held on March 24, 2021.