President Clinton challenged business students to solve the global food crisis for $1 million in seed money. Here are the finalists for the Hult Prize.
Aspire (McGill University, Canada) is hoping to solve the world’s hunger crisis one bug at a time. The startup provides low-cost insect farming systems to local farmers to help them harvest insects like crickets and grasshoppers year-round. Aspire then buys the insects — which are full of nutrients — from the farmers and distributes them to urban slums. Not only does this create income stability for the farmers, but it provides consistent nutrition at a more affordable price to those in need.
Reel Gardening (University of Capetown, South Africa) has what it calls a “fail-proof” seed system that can be grown into a vegetable or herb garden in nearly any climate. The startup created a paper strip that comes pre-packaged with seeds and fertilizers so it can be easily planted and maintained. The strips save 80% of water compared to more traditional methods of planting.
SokoText (The London School of Economics and Political Science) helps multiple vendors in urban slums combine produce orders so they’re able to place a cheaper wholesale purchase. Otherwise, small-scale vegetable sellers often can’t afford to buy produce in bulk. Vendors text their orders, and Sokotext responds with prices. The next morning, vendors can pick up their order from the outlet.
Origin (Esade Business School, Dubai) wants to use handheld technology to connect small vendors in slums directly with produce farmers, cutting out the middleman entirely. The startup launched a pilot program in Mumbai, providing vendors with handheld digital devices where they could place orders for fresh produce, which Origin passed on to local farmers. “By doing this, we can shorten the supply chain for fresh food to these communities and also bring down prices,” said Jon Myer, part of Origin’s team.
Poshnam (Asian Institute of Management, Shanghai) hopes to change the fact that over 1 billion tons of unsold food is wasted every year. The startup plans to purchase excess vegetables and grains from farmers and then use vendors to sell it at a discounted rate inside urban slums. Poshnam wants to train local women entrepreneurs to operate its mobile carts.
Pulse (Hult International Business School, San Francisco) developed an SMS-based system that allows the vendor to text a store credit to customers or put the credit on a card that the shopper can use for future purchases, to address the problem that in developing countries, vendors often can’t make the correct change after purchases. “This helps households who don’t have access to credit cards to develop a safety net for their money to buy food in the future,” said Saul Minkoff, Pulse’s team leader.