COLUMBIA — Clemson Cooperative Extension is teaming up with the S.C. Department of Agriculture on a program geared toward bolstering the state’s largest industry by arming budding agribusiness innovators with the business skills they need to succeed.

Clemson Extension logoA partnership between the Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship (ACRE) and Clemson Extension, the new curriculum program is aimed at agribusiness entrepreneurs seeking business and marketing know-how and offers the chance to win $5,000.

Program applications are due Sept. 28 and can be found at http://acre-sc.com. Qualifying applicants must be South Carolina residents and have an agribusiness idea or product prototype. Individuals selected for the curriculum program must attend class sessions on Oct. 23, Nov. 6, Nov. 20 and Dec. 11. During the December session, participants will pitch their business plans to a panel for the opportunity to win $5,000.

The program is for beginning innovators who have a great idea for a new product or process but don’t have experience in business. Participants will learn key principles of developing business and marketing plans, as well as understanding market trends and prospective customers.

“This program will give an overview of the business planning process and how to best manage an agricultural business,” said Nathan Smith, Clemson Extension economist and Agribusiness Program Team member. “The classes will cover pre-planning, marketing, pricing, cost of production, profitability, financial statements and management.”

All classes will be taught by Clemson’s Agribusiness Program Team and will take place at the Clemson Sandhill Research and Education Center, 900 Clemson Road, Columbia.

The Agribusiness curriculum program is the second track offered by the ACRE Entrepreneurship Center. The first track was launched in March for agribusiness entrepreneurs ready to take their products or businesses to the marketplace. Five South Carolina entrepreneurs were selected for that program.

“The South Carolina Department of Agriculture is committed to growing the economic impact of the state’s largest industry — agribusiness — to $50 billion by 2020,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers. “ACRE is an important initiative as we help entrepreneurs hone their skills and make their mark on South Carolina’s agribusiness landscape. This partnership takes advantage of Clemson Extension’s public outreach programs to bring unbiased, research-based information to our state’s budding agribusiness innovators.”

ACRE, a new initiative by the SCDA, is an umbrella organization that capitalizes on opportunities in the fields of agriculture, agricultural research and entrepreneurship. ACRE houses a unique research platform devoted to addressing specific challenges for industries that can provide more market opportunities to South Carolina agribusinesses and farmers.

According to 2013 data, agribusiness, a diverse cluster of 89 sectors that includes agriculture and forestry, collectively accounted for $41.7 billion in economic impact, making it the state’s largest industry and further emphasizing that it is a significant driver of the state’s economy.

For more information on the ACRE Curriculum Program, contact Kyle Player, ACRE Project Coordinator, 803-734-2324 or kplayer@scda.sc.gov; Nathan Smith, Clemson Agribusiness Program Team Leader, 803-788-5700 or nathan5@clemson.edu.