Agriculture AgTech FoodTech Sustainability

Solve’s 2020 Sustainable Food Systems Challenge

Agriculture occupies more than 40 percent of the Earth’s land and is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Farming, fishing, transporting, processing, and distributing food supports 28 percent of human livelihood, including 470 million smallholder farmers who often depend on less than 2 hectares for both income and sustenance. By 2050, that system will need to feed 3 billion more people while reducing net emissions to zero to align with Paris Agreement targets.

The MIT Solve community is looking for technology-based solutions for a low-carbon global food system that provides nutrition with minimal environmental impact. To that end, Solve seeks solutions that:

  • Support small-scale producers with access to inputs, capital, and knowledge to improve yields while sustaining productivity of land and seas;
  • Scale practices and incentives for larger farmers and ranchers to decrease carbon emissions, land-use change, nutrient runoff, or water pollution;
  • Improve supply chain practices to reduce food loss, scale new business models for producer-market connections, and create low-carbon cold chains; and
  • Promote the shift towards low-impact, diverse, and nutritious diets, including low-carbon protein options.

2020 Sustainable Food Systems challenge finalists are:

NUTY – Nutritious & Tasty Food, India: It is involved in clean-food production and distribution process in which raw materials are sourced directly from local growers to the kitchen wherein the food is prepared using standardized production methods that employ proprietary non-thermal shelf-life extension (HPP) processes to maintain the freshness of food while keeping the nutrients intact. The prepared food is radio tagged for traceability & shelf-life monitoring and distributed to consumers and businesses.

Bambara Milk, Singapore: It has developed a new plant-based milk, which is made from Bambara Groundnut, a nutrient-rich, climate-resilient legume that can grow on poor, dry soils without the need for fertilizers and pesticides. It can be used in agricultural intercropping systems to remediate degraded land. The Bambara Groundnut is drought-tolerant and capable of growing on poor soils as a legume.

Loop, India: It allows farmers to share the type, quantity, and price of crops they wish to sell using a chatbot accessed via WhatsApp, a digital messaging platform. Enabled by local language support and speech recognition, farmers enter this information along with photos. Agricultural buyers, use the same chatbot interface to discover available produce. This innovative solution enables buyers to bypass regional markets and middlemen to purchase directly from farmers.

Whole Surplus, Turkey: With its digital product called Surplus Management System (SMS), it offers holistic solutions to food surpluses in line with the Food Recovery Hierarchy and matches them with the right partner who offers the highest financial, environmental and social value. With SMS food businesses can manage all of their unsold, surplus inventories from one digital platform. With the digital platform, in 3 years, more than 14.000 tonnes of food have been saved.

Banoo, Indonesia: It reconstructs the whole aquaculture ecosystem by integrating a series of technologies into a circular system. It’s microbubble generator (MBG) bursts little bubbles in deep water, where the oxygen level is lowest because of the lack of exposure to sunlight. During night time, the oxygen level in deep water is critical and these aerators provide little help because fishes tend to stay in deep water until the sun rises.

Symbrosia, USA: It’s solution involves addition of a very small amount of a single species of seaweed, Asparagopsis taxiformis (A. taxiformis), to livestock feed to create a very large reduction (over 90%) in methane emissions. It uses on-land aquaculture production system to A. taxiformis at scale, which is then dried and powderised to make the feed product, SVD.

Value Rescue for Sustainable Seafood, Mexico: It addresses the inefficiencies and misaligned incentives throughout the complex small-scale seafood system. It partners with small scale fisher co-ops to improve how seafood is caught, killed, handled and processed; how to implement cost-effective logistics solutions; and how to process and freeze seafood applying food safety standards, thereby creating jobs in coastal communities.

Sensegrass, India: It’s making soil intelligence system for fertilizer management and detect crop diseases to improve crop yield with water control tools for small farms through smart IoT and AI. Company’s smart soil sensor for NPK detection measures more than 18 parameters from micro soil data (including NPK fertilizers) detection and giving solution and prediction to farmers for better decision making to get best crop yield and save money in farms.

From waste to taste, Australia: It’s goal is to completely replace the mining-based phosphorus fertiliser in the agricultural industry with phosphorus recovery from waste. It uses single-step low-temperature transformation of steel-making slag and coffee waste as the basis for the separation of phosphorus which can be done locally at small scale. This approach could contribute significantly to the sustainability of food production and increasing the agricultural productivity internationally.

Nilus, Argentina: It’s mission is to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition, by making it possible for low income people to access healthy food in a sustainable manner. It has created a digital marketplace that connects food companies with products at risk of being wasted with soup kitchens and convenient stores in low income neighborhoods, and manages the last-mile distribution of the products by crowdsourcing the trips among professional drivers.

Beewise, Israel: It’s a newly designed beehive that includes precision robotics, computer vision, and AI. The solution can feed and water bees, treat illnesses and pests, address climate-related issues with an active climate control system (both temperature and humidity), harvest honey (within the device), prevent 100% swarming, and do frame manipulation such as split hives, combine hives, add queen excluders etc. This results in less than 8% colony collapse vs. the control, which is over 35%, while reducing manual labor by 90%.

Shiok Meats, Singapore: It is a cell-based clean meat company, specifically for crustaceans – shrimps, prawns, crabs, lobsters, crayfish etc. The meats are produced from stem cells and cells of the animal, extracted only once, to produce thousands of tonnes of meat in a controlled environment resulting in meats that are tasty, nutritious and cruelty-free. Since they are produced from stem cells, their biological and chemical composition is exactly as that of meat.

eggXYt, Israel: It’s CRISPR based proprietary technology revolutionizes the chicken industry. Using a biomarker on the male chromosome of a chicken embryo, the sex of the chick is detectable once the egg is laid, and more importantly before the chick hatches. Scanning the egg through the shell, eggXYt is saving billions of dollars on incubation and manual sexing costs: 8 billion male chicks will be saved from unnecessary incubation and immediate killing, and the male non incubated eggs could be repurposed to be used in the food, pharma or cosmetic industries.

InsectiPro, Kenya: It aims to provide a cheaper and more practical solution to the food crisis by elevating nutrition through insects. It grows black soldier flies to produce alternative protein sources for the feed industry using a low tech, circular production process. This process means that farmers can use less land and get better growth results than with soy and fishmeal. Alternatively, with the cricket products, it is working with maize companies in Kenya to add cricket powder to their existing products. Cricket powder can be added to anything from cookies to baby formula.

COOLING DOWN THE DRYLANDS OF KENYA, Kenya: The project idea addresses the expansion of off-grid electrification with an aim to assess whether cold storage facilities for meat & dairy preservation is an appropriate, beneficial and financially viable productive application for semi-arid livestock economies. The target users are pastoralist centers that can adopt Solar Powered Communal Refrigeration to aggregate and cool their meat & dairy produce efficiently.

Voting for the challenge closes on September 29 at 2:00pm ET.

Winners will be revealed at Virtual Solve Challenge Finals on September 29, along with the selected 2020 Solver teams and over $2 million in prize funding. MIT Solve is a marketplace for social impact innovation with a mission to solve world challenges.