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New rice varieties, solar-power cold storage units for perishables and aquaculture initiative among winners of IFT challenge

February 4, 2022
Food & Drink

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has announced winners for the inaugural Seeding The Future Global Food System Challenge. They include arsenic-excluding rice varieties, solar-powered cold storage units for rural smallholder farmers of perishable produce and a sustainable aquaculture project.

This initiative which seeks to inspire and support innovative, diverse and multidisciplinary teams to create “game-changing” innovations that will help transform the food system.

To incentivize innovation at all levels, including idea generation, development, and scale up, the challenge offers three levels of awards consisting of Seed Grants, Growth Grants, and a Grand Prize category, totaling more than US$1 million.

“Throughout the selection process, we saw truly inspiring and revolutionary innovations developed by highly motivated teams from all over the world to address the challenges facing our food system on a regional and global scale,” says Bernhard van Lengerich, founder of Seeding The Future Foundation.

“We are thrilled to announce the winners of this first challenge and to support their innovative solutions which will sustainably improve our food system, provide safe and nutritious food that is trusted, affordable and accessible by consumers and benefit the health of people and the environment.”

Gamechangers of industry
As millions of people suffer from chronic hunger and obesity, and with the world population expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050, the challenge was initiated by the Seeding The Future Foundation to inspire and support highly impactful solutions to make our food system more sustainable and healthy.

Among the top winning projects are solutions across the food value chain, from natural fertilizer and animal feed to safer, more nutritious grains and protein sources, to off-grid solar dryers and solar powered refrigeration units.

Designed to operate in high temperature, geographic regions that lack infrastructure, the refrigeration units extend shelf life and avoid spoilage of fresh produce. These integrated solutions are promising and sustainable approaches in improving our food supply in the face of health crisis and climate change.

In the first year of the challenge, nearly 900 applications were submitted from start-ups, non-profits, universities, research institutions, and multi-organization collaborations, from more than 60 countries. The vast and varied interest demonstrates the significance and drive to create a more resilient and sustainable food system to feed the world’s growing population.

The Grand Prize winners are:

International Rice Research Institute for its arsenic-safe rice project which will deploy newly developed arsenic-excluding rice varieties that are much safer for human consumption in target arsenic-polluted regions to create socioeconomic and human health benefits.
Solar Freeze for its project on portable, solar-powered cold storage units for rural smallholder farmers of perishable produce. The purpose is to reduce post-harvest food loss that currently accounts for over 45 percent of fresh produce going to waste among rural farmers in developing countries.
WorldFish for its homestead aquaculture project to bring sustainable, nutrient-rich small fish production to small scale actors for a healthy and affordable option for consumers especially those who need it most such as young children, and pregnant and lactating women.
The Growth Grant winners are:

African Centre for Technology Studies in collaboration with Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute and United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi Office for its project which promotes enhanced access to solar drying technologies to smallholder farmers; thus, providing optimal dehydration of fresh produce for enhanced product quality and post-harvest management.
Food Systems for the Future Institute (FSF) and Afya Feed Ltd., for its use of black soldier fly larvae to overcome the poultry and aquaculture industry feed affordability challenge. Through a partnership with Protix, a Dutch-based commercial black soldier larvae (bsl) producer, Afya and FSF will design and scale commercial production to provide an alternative bsl protein as a protein supplement in animal feeds.
iDE, for its project to establish community-managed vermicompost fertilizer enterprises that incorporate Trichoderma, a beneficial fungus that improves plant growth and yields while speeding up the composting process to transform organic farm and household waste into nutritious food for rural communities while acting as a proof-of-concept to catalyze replication across multiple regions.
Eight recipients of Seed Grant
In addition to the Grand Prize and Growth Grant winners, IFT also announced eight recipients of the Seed Grant. Recipients included Association 3535, Eatwell Meal Kits, Center for Nanoscience and Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, INMED Partnerships for Children, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute, Tanzania Environment Management Catalyst, University of Missouri and the World Wildlife Fund.

“We firmly believe this year’s recipients have created innovative, impactful solutions needed to build a more sustainable food supply,” concludes Christie Tarantino-Dean, Chief Executive Officer at IFT.

Edited by Benjamin Ferrer


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