Three African companies are among the selection of 30 innovative agritech and foodtech startups from around the world vying to win the global FoodTech Challenge that has a pooled prize of US $2 million. The challenge is open to companies working to address food security challenges.
Tanzanian Novfeed, Nigerian Aquiline iFARMS and Ethiopia-based Coffee Resurrect are on the shortlist for the second edition of the challenge that seeks to find the next wave of technology innovations on the cusp of transforming traditional agriculture practices efficiently and sustainably.
Officially launched at Expo City in Dubai in March 2022, the competition is organised by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Tamkeen, with ASPIRE as the lead partner.
The 30 shortlisted start-ups working to address food security challenges have been selected from 667 submissions across 79 countries, representing a 52% increase in entries compared to the first edition of the competition, which saw 437 applications from 68 countries, with previous winners announced from Australia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the UK.
Food production, food waste tackled
Targeted at early-stage start-ups trying to enter the agri-food tech industry, the FoodTech Challenge looks for innovative solutions that address food production and food loss and waste challenges, from indoor and vertical farming to upcycled ingredients and waste efficiency.
Of the shortlisted start-ups, 50% of proposals were focused on tackling food production – with a heavy focus on insect farming and aquaculture, farm management, plant-based solutions, and precision farming. Applications addressing food loss and waste solutions account for the other 50% of the shortlisted start-ups, which featured food waste tech, food sharing platforms, supply chain monitoring, and traceability as key themes.
- Novfeed, a start-up from Tanzania, has developed a proprietary chemical-free biotechnological platform where organic waste is converted into a natural, traceable, and safe non-animal and non-GMO protein source that can be used in aquaculture.
- Aqualife iFARMS is a Nigerian organisation that transforms food waste to animal feed and fertiliser using black soldier flies.
- Ethiopia-based Coffee Resurrect is the first biotech company in Africa to create nutraceuticals and food ingredients from coffee waste.
Underscoring the global nature of the competition, the 30 shortlisted candidates are from a diverse range of countries. This year, the largest number of shortlisted startups came from the UK, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Spain, the United States of America, and Singapore. The FoodTech Challenge also saw an encouraging increase in youth participation, with 47% of the teams being between 18-35 years old.
The shortlisted candidates were selected by a strong multi-sector bench of 28 technical and commercial judges. In the next phase of the competition, they will be assessed by the competition’s partners in panel interviews, and then by nine finale judges to ensure that each entry is rigorously analyzed from an array of perspectives.
Winning cash and valuable support
Salmeen Alameri, CEO of Silal, one of the agricultural entities involved in the judging process, said, “When it comes to food production and food security, we are at an inflection point. We cannot continue as we are; there is a need for systemic change that presents an opportunity for devising innovative solutions to food security challenges. This competition provides an ideal platform where innovative agritech startups come together to develop effective solutions that help us build a robust agriculture system for future generations. ”
The next stage of the competition will identify ten finalists. From these finalists, four winning teams will be selected to take away prizes from a US$2 million prize pool, which includes up to US$400 000 in cash, and eligibility for support programmes available through the competition’s enablement partners that include acceleration support from newest entity Hub71 – valued up to US$540 000, an acceleration from Catalyst valued up to US$760 000, as well as grants from the Authority of Social Contribution valued up to US$500 000 for social impact-related projects.
The winners will not only receive financial rewards, but the partners will also collectively provide a critical community and support network to help the winners to set up in the UAE and scale up their concepts. Abu Dhabi Global Market and Abu Dhabi Residents Office, for example, will provide support for UAE commercial registration with ‘Golden Visas’. The Competitiveness Office of Abu Dhabi will provide technical, legal, and financial support for patent registration, and the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development will help with mentorship and go-to-market support for local agri-tech experts.
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