Two second-year agribusiness students from Assiniboine Community College were recently awarded first place in an annual provincial business competition after focusing in on producer car shipping.
Matt Tolton and Will Turner were awarded the top spot in the Manitoba New Venture Championship on April 11 at the University of Manitoba.
Both Tolton and Turner grew up on farms in southwestern Manitoba and capitalized on the agriculture industry’s grain transportation woes to come up with their winning business plan.
“The role of these projects is to help students develop strong business planning skills that are invaluable in any type of business setting,” said Terry Powell, agribusiness instructor at ACC. “Past award finalists have been aggressively recruited by employers.”
The competition required students to develop an agriculture-focused business plan for fictional companies and tasked them with finding three suitable mentors within the business community to provide real-world expertise in operations, business management and accounting.
Over the course of seven months, Tolton and Turner created the Central Plains Railway Corporation, a company focused on producer car shipping.
The project examined repurposing an existing, unused railway branch line from Rathwell to Nesbitt, suggesting the line could be put back into business and used to move producer and elevator cars.
“Producers would come to us, we would order the train cars and they would have to find their own buyer and destination,” explained Turner.
According to the students, the incentive for producers to ship with a short line would be that they could save $1,000 a car in elevator fee shipping with producer cars.
“We calculated shipping from every town within 75 to 100 miles of the line and averaged $4 a tonne to ship,” said Turner.
The project consisted of an 18-page business plan and required a 25-minute presentation. Turner focused on the financial aspects of the project, while Tolton covered operations and industry-specific knowledge.
The duo earned a ticket to the provincial competition after winning the annual agribusiness plan competition earlier this year at ACC.
The event on April 11 saw the two face off against 11 other undergraduate pairs from the University of Manitoba, Red River College and Brandon University.
Following the completion of the agribusiness program, Turner plans to return to his family farm in Boissevain while Tolton will be working in Saskatchewan for the summer months.