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14 Innovators Win Grants for Solutions Aimed at Sustainably ‘Seeding the Future’

The startups and NGOs have won the inaugural Seeding the Future Global Food System Challenge, from the Institute of Food Technologists, aimed at scaling innovations that will help transform the food system.

Today, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) announced winners of the inaugural Seeding the Future Global Food System Challenge — an initiative that 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 — from concept to scale-up — the Challenge offers three levels of awards, totaling more than $1 million.

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 diets more accessible, while empowering consumers globally to make choices benefitting both personal and planetary health. The Challenge focuses on scalable and high-impact innovations that reside at the intersection of three domains:

  • safe and nutritious food for a healthy diet;

  • produced sustainably and without waste; and

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In the first year of the Challenge, nearly 900 applications were submitted from startups, nonprofits, 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.

Among the 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. These integrated solutions are promising and sustainable approaches in improving our food supply in the face of health crisis and climate change.

“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,” said 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.”

Grand Prize winners

  • International Rice Research Institute (Philippines) — 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 improve socioeconomic and human health.

  • Solar Freeze (Kenya) — for its portable, solar-powered cold storage units for rural smallholder farmers of perishable produce. The aim is to reduce post-harvest food loss, which currently accounts for over 45 percent of fresh produce going to waste among rural farmers in developing countries.

  • WorldFish (Malaysia) — for its homestead aquaculture project to bring sustainable, nutrient-rich small fish production to small-scale actors. The goal is to scale healthy and affordable options for consumers in developing areas — especially those who need it most, such as young children, and pregnant and lactating women.

Growth Grant winners

  • African Centre for Technology Studies — in collaboration with Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute and United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi Office — for promoting 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 their use of black soldier fly larvae (BSL) to overcome the poultry and aquaculture industry’s feed-affordability challenge. Through a partnership with Protix, a Dutch-based commercial black soldier larvae producer, Afya and FSF will design and scale commercial production to provide BSL protein as a 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.

Seed Grant recipients

“We’re humbled by the exceptional work being done to advance the food system, and it’s an honor to recognize the winners of the inaugural Global Food System Challenge,” said IFT CEO Christie Tarantino-Dean. “We firmly believe this year’s recipients have created innovative, impactful solutions needed to build a more sustainable food supply.”