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Alex Connor Takes Top Category Prize in New York Business Plan Competition

Alex Connor Takes Top Category Prize in New York Business Plan Competition



By Jeanne Hedden Gallagher

May 19, 2021

Alex Connor, a Ph.D. chemical and biological engineering candidate at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, won first place in the Agtech and Food Industry track in the 12th annual New York Business Plan Competition (NYBPC) for his presentation on Ripely, his proposed business geared toward extending the shelf life of fresh produce. Connor was also named a finalist in the Grand Prize competition.


Connor calls Ripely “the largest innovation in fighting food waste since refrigeration.” He said that the shelf life of fruits and vegetables can be doubled just by spraying them with his product, which combines a small amount of silk protein and water.


The NYBPC is an annual intercollegiate business model competition where nearly 700 students from more than 50 New York colleges and universities compete for recognition, prize money, and opportunities to make connections with business and industry. 


Under the business name MegaSilk, Connor won first place in the 2020 Paul J. and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer combined spring competition. After doing further customer discovery, Connor rebranded as Ripely in early fall 2020.


Connor has been named a semifinalist in other national business model competitions, including The Cardinal Challenge from the University of Louisville and the Heartland Challenge at the University of Arkansas.


His faculty advisers at Rensselaer are Mattheos Koffas, a professor, and Helen Zha, an assistant professor, both from the School of Engineering.


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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,600 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.