By Cody Sanders, Auburn University
On Feb. 13, some of the brightest and most innovative minds from around the globe gathered in Lisbon, Portugal for a revolutionary experience. Located in one of Europe’s most startup friendly cities, and organized by some of the most creative planners and designers in the world, the second annual Thought for Food Global Summit was nothing short of spectacular. Thought for Food (TFF) first began in 2011 when co-founders Christine Gould and Nadia Laurinci aspired to bring together the inspired to answer once of the toughest questions facing the next generation of student leaders – how do we feed 9 billion people by the 2050? Since its creation, teams from every corner of the globe have brought forth ideas that have been developed into practical solutions using resources provided by the magnificent mentors and ingenious individuals that make up the TFF leadership team.
As a former finalist of the 2012 Thought for Food Challenge and an attendee of the first-ever Global Summit held in Berlin the previous year, I have grown to expect the unexpected when it comes to TFF. From mind-blowing, science-oriented speakers to agricultural legends like Julie Borlaug, Thought for Food epitomizes the changing culture of the way Millennials view their role in helping address global issues, specifically food security. Using the new practice of producing results with collegiate students (such as the custom-built Design Thinking Lab), TFF provides guidance to its competing teams all the way to the final stage at the annual global summit.
The Thought for Food Challenge is set up in a manner that is unconventional, which is just the way the co-founders envisioned it. Teams from across the world, including over fifty countries and six continents, register their team online in the months of September and October. During the next two months, the teams, consisting of up to five members and all disciplines of study, collaborate with each other and the Thought for Food core team and mentors to help take their breakthrough idea on helping feed the world’s growing population to an actual solution. In mid-December, ten finalist teams were announced, and were rewarded with a trip to Lisbon, Portugal and the chance to compete in front of a live audience for a grand prize of $10,000 in seed money to find their solution.
This year’s competition was fierce. Teams ranged in ideas from reducing food waste, increasing shelf life of food, to even using unconventional forms of substance such as mealworm powder. Teams gathered in Lisbon a week before the summit, where they went through the StartUp Pirates Bootcamp. Here, the finalists learned about exciting ways to help make their ideas even better, and worked on their pitches for the panel of judges. Similar to the hit show, “Shark Tank,” finalists were given five minutes on stage, followed by a round of questioning from judges to present their ideas in front of the crowd at the summit.
At the summit’s conclusion, the judges were left with an incredibly tough decision. So tough in fact, that they could not agree on a single runner-up. Team FoPo Power from Lund University in Sweeden and Team Aahar from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay in India were both announced as runner-ups in the competition. The original prize of $5,000 for the runner-up was not split between the two incredible teams. Instead, both teams walked away with an individual check of $5,000 to help carry out their solution. Four incredibly passionate and empowering young women from the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh, known as Team Innovision, walked away as the grand prizewinner of the 2014 Thought for Food Challenge. Their investment seed money will be used to “developed a solar-powered, micro-climate chamber for small scale farmers that increases shelf life of fruits and vegetables using an evaporation cooling system.” The entire ten finalist’ bios and their accompanying project synopsis can be found on the Thought for Food website at www.tffchallenge.com/Summit.
The Thought for Food Challenge has only continued to grow since its inception a few years ago. From only a handful of teams in their first challenge, the competition currently boasted a field of approximately 350 teams from this past year. The future only looks brighter for the organization, as they continue to search for the brightest minds of tomorrow to join the growing community and revolution known as Thought for Food.
For more information on TFF, feel free to visit www.tffchallenge.com and be sure to subscribe to their mailing list to be kept up to date on the challenge and incredible opportunities provided by the organization. Also, follow them on social media @tffchallenge for both Twitter and Instagram, and be sure to like their Facebook page www.facebook.com/tffchallenge for all upcoming and exciting information on the next Thought for Food Challenge and how you and your university can participate in the future. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you have. If I cannot find an answer, I’ll be happy to assist you in getting in touch with the people who can.
The motto of Thought for Food is “Uproot the Status Quo.” The motto is meant to inspire students like you and me to be disruptive and have a healthy disregard for the impossible. When it comes to Thought for Food, no idea is too big and no solution is unreasonable. What are you waiting for—Will you and your university be present, or even possibly on stage next year, in helping “Uproot the Status Quo” at where the Thought for Food Community convenes at next?
Cody Sanders graduated from Auburn University in 2014 with a degree in Political Science. He is currently an MPA candidate and remains involved with both TTF and UFWH. Connect with him via Twitter and Instagram at @codyAUSanders, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.