Innovation is likely to be the key to solving a number of global issues, including our ability to feed the world’s fast-growing population.
In October 2019, the UN World Food Program held its first-ever Innovation Accelerator bootcamp at Google’s Mountain View headquarters in Silicon Valley. Over five days, specialists in innovation and global development worked with entrepreneurs to discuss and work on proposed tech solutions that could help fight the global food security crisis.
Ten teams from the thousands of entries were invited to participate in the event, designed to help innovators take their ideas to market and in doing so, go towards achieving the UN’s second Sustainable Development Goal; Zero Hunger.
Today, 821 million people are hungry and by 2050, an additional 2 billion people are expected to be undernourished. Investments in technology that boosts agriculture are crucial to increasing productivity and developing sustainable food production systems that could help alleviate hunger. Here is an outline of the ideas five of the teams pitched to the judges;
Hydroponic farming start-up H2Grow showcased a platform designed to support the farming of vegetables and crops in challenging locations. The platform functions without soil providing a nutritional environment for crops to grow. It also uses 75% less space and 90% less water than a traditional farming plot of the same size. H2Grow is currently operating across eight different countries, successfully growing food in difficult locations all over the world.
From Iraq, PDS Digital Identity joined the innovation bootcamp to work on their public distribution system that improves the efficiency of the food rations system that currently provides aid to 39 million people. Built to replace an unreliable paper-system, the app, called myPDS, provides citizens with a digital identity that allows the government to prioritise aid delivery and ensure the most vulnerable get the ration supplies they need.
Food waste is often cited as the biggest cause of the global food security crisis. Fenik aims to tackle the issue by inventing a system for keeping food cool in locations without electricity. In doing so, people are able to extend the shelf life of food, reducing waste. The ‘Yuma 60L’ keeps food cool using only water to drive a natural process that removes latent heat from a surface where evaporation is taking place. The company claims that its Yuma 60L cooler allows food to last three to five times as long as it would without cooling.
Roambee is a global Internet of Things (IoT) data company that provides real-time visibility into the position of goods and assets across a worldwide supply chain. Using purposefully built sensor hardware, cloud data analytics, and automation, the Roambee provides reliable monitoring without the need to own your own sensor equipment, operating on a pay as you go basis. By asking customers to only pay for what they monitor, costs are kept low and food supplies can be closely monitored to mitigate any issues that could threaten the shipment before they spoil the food.
The Roambee concept is already positively impacting cost and risk for hundreds of enterprises in manufacturing, logistics, supply chain, transportation, finance and aerospace. It now aims to use that same technology to help the World Food Programme's supply chain to reduce inefficiencies and end hunger by reducing waste.
At the end of the week, the organisers awarded the Ghanaian farming start-up Sesi Technologies with the ‘Most Impactful Pitch’ award for the ‘GrainMate Moisture Meter’. Agriculture is the foundation of the rural Ghanaian economy as seventy percent of production value comes from food crops. Yet, as much as a third of cereal crops, such as wheat, oats and maize, are lost after harvest due to a lack of adequate drying and storage capabilities. If the drying process is not done properly, crops become the ideal breeding ground for fungal growth, contamination and insect infestation.
The Grain Mate Moisture Meter tackles this issue by measuring moisture levels in post-harvest stored crops like corn, sorghum, wheat, and chickpeas. It costs $100 and can also by purchased by trading grain products, ensuring that as many farmers as possible are able to gain access this technology. Inventor Isaac Sesi said that his vision for the GrainMate is to; “help create an Africa where no one has to go to bed on an empty stomach anymore.” By facilitating an easy and affordable way to track moisture levels in the crop, smallholder farmers are able to reduce inventory losses.
If you have any questions