FARGO - North Dakota State University’s National Agri-Marketing Association marketing team’s idea for an oat milk ice cream made a big impression at the National Agri-Marketing Association conference, earning the team a national championship in the conference’s student competition.

Thomas Konetschka, a senior and the president of the NDSU NAMA, has competed for four years, including on two other finalist teams. That experience was vital for the team. He said it gave them insight on what to expect and what kinds of questions to anticipate.

“It’s a shot of adrenaline when you’re up there presenting,” Konetschka said.

"The competition helps students gain practical marketing and research experience, while meeting with business professionals in agribusiness and marketing," said David Englund, agribusiness and applied economics lecturer at NDSU. "Each year, students take a new product idea and write a five-page marketing plan, which they turn into a 20-minute presentation for the competition."

Konetschka said the team barely made it out of the first round.

“It’s really competitive,” he said.

Englund and Tom Wahl, agribusiness and applied economics professor, coached the team. The team’s product, which they dubbed “North Dakota Nice Cream,” would serve a need for consumers, particularly lactose-intolerant customers, while providing market benefits for North Dakota oat producers, a release from the university said.

Konetschka explained that North Dakota Nice Cream was a hypothetical product - there was no oat-based frozen product on the market, he said. However, one company launched such a product as the team prepared.

“We’re a little bit ahead of the curve,” Konetschka said.

The conference typically features competition among 30 to 35 schools. This year’s conference was held April 8-12 in Kansas City, Mo.

Konetschka grew up in Mendota Heights, Minn., an area he called “very urban.” An advisor seeking participants in NAMA sold it to him as a Shark Tank-like contest when he was a freshman.

“I tried it and I really liked it and I met really interesting people,” Konetschka said.

He plans to intern this summer as a grain merchandising intern at ADM, but continuing to work in marketing appeals to him, particularly in the agriculture sector. With his non-farm background, he feels he could offer a perspective on how to build a bridge between producers and consumers.

The NAMA win had representatives of big companies asking NDSU students for their resumes, Konetschka said. The team was proud to represent smaller schools at the competition, he added.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln placed second, Kansas State University placed third, and Iowa State University, Texas A&M and University of Guelph were finalists.