Food & Agriculture

Overview

The production and distribution of food intersect with some of the most critical issues of our time: pervasive hunger and malnutrition as well as obesity, environmental degradation resulting from agricultural activities, labor injustices, and extreme inequities in the distribution of farmland and food access. Many initiatives and efforts have emerged in recent years, as attempts to address these persistent food-related problems, from local to global levels. Yet, challenges persist– and have escalated in some areas– often due to political and economic causes. Achieving food security, justice, health, and sustainability in food systems, and equitable access to nutritious food, requires significant changes, ideas, and problem-solving by people and organizations in a wide variety of disciplines.

The Challenge

The challenge for this track is to encourage the development of innovative solutions or approaches that address complex challenges in food systems. Proposals submitted to this track may focus on areas such as enhancing agricultural production, increasing food security, promoting sustainable farming practices, and/or creating equitable access to nutritious food. Proposals may be aimed at campus-based programs, local/domestic issues, or international efforts.

The challenge for this track is to encourage the development of innovative solutions or approaches that address complex challenges in food systems. Proposals submitted to this track may focus on areas such as enhancing agricultural production, increasing food security, promoting sustainable farming practices, and/or creating equitable access to nutritious food. Proposals may be aimed at campus-based programs, local/domestic issues, or international efforts.

Past Winners and Examples

Examples of proposals include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • A public health prevention initiative that aims to improve children’s nutrition and health outcomes or address issues of hunger and/or obesity.
  • A technology or innovation that greatly reduces agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and promotes sustainable agricultural practices.
  • A public awareness campaign that highlights labor issues in food systems and aims to improve working conditions for farmworkers.
  • A project that aims to improve storage methods to reduce food loss and food waste for small-scale farmers in the developing world.
2019 1st Place - Intelligent Bugs Mapping and Wiping (iBMW)
2017 1st Place - Farmview: New Power for Tenant Farmers
2019 2nd Place - Chap-Dryer
2018 2nd Place - Our Campus Kitchen
2019 3rd Place - Okaranchi
2018 3rd Place - Acarí

Intelligent Bugs Mapping and Wiping (iBMW): An affordable robot for farmers

Team Members:

Haoyu Niu, Tiebiao Zhao

School:

UC Merced

This project idea is to develop an intelligent bugs mapping and wiping (iBMW) robot to perform pest population spatial distribution and “surgical precision spraying” for pest wipeout. The iBMW is an affordable (less than $1,000) robot-driven robot, which has a Turtlebot 3 as the robot’s brain and an unmanned ground vehicle serving as the work platform. Based on the design, the robot will be able to recognize and classify the Navel orangeworm by using deep learning neural networks. In addition, several iBMWs can work in the field together in swarming mode day and night, so that it can realize temporal and spatial bug mapping. As a result, mapping can determine which areas are at the greatest risk and whether wiping treatment is needed by iBMWs.

Farmview: New Power for Tenant Farmers

Team Members:

Adam Calo, Karin Goh, Natalia Lyson

School:

UC Berkeley

In California, just as low-income residents struggle to find affordable housing, farmers also face a cutthroat farmland rental market. If beginning farmers can’t find land for agriculture, then the ‘young farmer movement’ is a pipe dream. In California, 41 percent of all farmland is rented out to others, and new tenants face exorbitant rental prices, lands of poor quality, and predatory leases. There is a tremendous opportunity to leverage emerging data science and geographic information system methods to address the land access issue. In collaboration with California Farmlink, a farming direct service provider, Farmview is a tool that assists beginning farmers in the acquisition of farmland. Farmview combines public data about land ownership with local knowledge contributed by farmers to show farmers the location of available land and its associated attributes. This project will run workshops with farmers in California, conduct user testing, and roll out a statewide tool.

Chap-Dryer

Team Members:

Morris Atuhwera, George Komakeck

School:

Makerere University

Unlike other poly-tunnel solar dryers in the market that use steel frames and metallic base plates, Chap-Dyer uses moisture resistant eucalyptus poles as frames and rough stone slates as a base. These materials are readily available in all parts of Uganda and very affordable, reducing the total cost of a dryer from $1,000 to $200 for an 18 cubic meter drying space. The use of stone slates instead of steel plates allows for the dryer to perform optimally during day time and night time, drying twice as fast as the standard poly-tunnel dryer in the market. Unlike steel frames that require precise engineering and fabrication for easy assembly on site, Chap-Dryer which uses eucalyptus and stones requires simple carpentry and masonry joinery techniques which takes less labor cost and minimal electric power cost as all components can be fabricated and assembled on site.

Our Campus Kitchen

Team Members:

Naomi Primero, Lucinda Laurence, Ibrahim Ramoul, Sara Tsai

School:

UC Berkeley

At UC Berkeley, student food insecurity is rampant while food waste is pervasive. Between expensive meals eating out and emergency provision at the Food Pantry, thousands of students are left without a consistent, affordable food option while Cal Dining and the campus gardens are flush with unused food that’s unable to be reliably processed and distributed. Meanwhile, the Berkeley Student Food Collective has pioneered a student-run food waste recovery program that focuses on addressing food insecurity using a sustainable business model in a kitchen that’s too small to scale. Our Campus Kitchen and retail café will operate as the hub of a new paradigm for campus food: a volunteer-operated, student-run kitchen that would engage students in food education, community service, and food business.

Okaranchi

Team Members:

Vy Phung, Gary Adrian, Jeremy Chuardy, Chia-Yung Su, Siriyakorn Chantieng

School:

UC Davis

Okara is known as a soy pulp by-product generated when processing soy-based products. While okara still contains high nutrition values, most of it is dumped into landfills where it creates greenhouse gas emissions, causing environmental concerns. Okaranchi crackers aims to alleviate the global food waste issue by introducing consumers to a nutritious, sustainable and innovative snacking alternative. This appetite-fulfilling cracker is gluten-free, rich in protein and fiber, and low in high-glycemic carbohydrates, all of which meet conscious consumers’ concerns when making food purchases. Okaranchi can be consumed as its own snack, eaten as a crunchy component in soup and salad, or paired with dippings, spreads, nut butter, and even fruit, cheese, and wine. Through appealing and informative packaging, a sustainability-focused vision, and education outreach, consumers will realize that they are doing good to both their bodies and the environment through their purchase of Okaranchi.

Acarí

Team Members:

Mike Mitchell, Sam Bordia

School:

UC Berkeley

Acarí takes the hated and feared invasive armored catfish or ‘devil fish’ as it is colloquially known in Mexico and transforms it into tasty, nutritious food products to increase employment in rural fishing communities and provide a healthy, sustainable alternative to beef jerky. To Acarí, the devil fish is much more than an invasive ‘trash fish’; it is an opportunity to improve the livelihoods of marginalized fishermen across Mexico. Though the devil fish has perplexed politicians and development professionals for nearly two decades, Acarí considers it to be a marketing problem first and foremost and has begun to develop the sales channels and supply chain to effectively transform the devil fish from plague to a protein-packed snack that makes their customers say, “Quiero más.”

SEPT
2020

18

Come get inspired by Big Ideas alumni and their stories of how they transformed their early-stage idea into a successful social venture.