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Students challenged to drive change with new MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize

J-WAFS receives a gift from Rabobank in support of a new student innovation competition, to be run by the MIT Food and Agriculture Club.
Rows of sprouted plants

MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) today announced a new innovation competition in food and agriculture.

Sponsored by Rabobank, the new MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Plan Competition — with prizes totaling $25,000 — is intended to be the premier food and agribusiness business plan competition for university and graduate students in the Boston area and, by invitation, outside Boston. The prize is distinct from other competitions because of its specific focus on food and agribusiness, and because of the access it will provide successful entrants to the broader business community. 

J‑WAFS was launched in 2014 to coordinate and promote water and food research at MIT, emphasizing the deployment of effective technologies, programs, and policies that will have a measurable and international impact as humankind adapts to a rapidly expanding and evolving population on a changing planet.  

Rabobank Group is one of the largest banks in the world. In the Americas, Rabobank is a premier bank to the food, agribusiness, and beverage industry, providing sector expertise, strategic counsel, and tailored financial solutions to clients across the entire food value chain, including crop input, industrial production, manufacturing and processing, trade, distribution, retail, and food service segments. 

Prize competitions are a popular and effective way to benefit talented individuals and teams in creating, developing, and pursing new ideas. Rajiv Singh, CEO of Rabobank North America Wholesale, says that “both MIT and Rabobank will benefit from fostering innovative and sustainable thinking about food and agribusiness products and services. We hope and believe that the larger business community will benefit from the ideas that this competition will generate.”

The competition will take place in two stages. Finalist teams selected by a committee of judges in the first stage will be matched with a mentor. Mentors are volunteer industry or academic professionals with diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise, who will work with teams for up to three months to help them develop the final business plan submissions and presentations.  

In the second state, finalists will present their business plans at a public event hosted at MIT in May. This stage will culminate in the awarding of $25,000 in prize money to be distributed across three winning teams.  

The MIT Food and Agriculture Club will host a kickoff event this fall in order to stimulate interest and help students form ideas and make teams. The competition is focused on early-stage ideas, and will provide valuable experience and mentorship to students and researchers.

John H. Lienhard V, director of J-WAFS and the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water and Food, notes that "the success of last year’s inaugural Water Innovation Prize confirms the draw these competitions have for creative and motivated students. We are very excited to introduce this food and agriculture prize to stimulate students who are interested in invention and entrepreneurship to think about innovative new products and processes in the food and agriculture sectors."

Interested students can find eligibility criteria and the competition schedule on the MIT Food and Agriculture Club website

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