The country's top food and agricultural students locked horns this week in the inaugural Smith & Williamson Grassroutes Business Challenge.

Faced with real-life business scenarios, nine teams from some of the UK's top universities and agricultural colleges were charged with developing a business strategy in a Dragons' Den-meets-The Apprentice-style competition, backed by The Grocer.

The team from Exeter University triumphed after pitching their idea for a new variety of mini cucumber to a team of experts, including senior executives from Asda, Ginsters and Warburtons.

Other challenges included bringing an alcohol-free Champagne-style drink to market and building a free-range egg business.

The event took place at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester as part of its Rural Enterprise week. The winning team took home a cheque for £600 and the Grassroutes Trophy with the runners up, from the University of Reading, receiving a year's subscription to The Grocer.

"It was a pleasure to see senior executives from some of the UK's leading businesses working so closely with the students on true-to-life scenarios," said Steve Elwood, head of food and agriculture at Smith & Williamson. "This blend of experience, energy and enthusiasm is just what the industry needs to get through the tough times ahead."