Student Food Systems Innovation Challenge calls for Bold Actions towards the UN Food Systems Summit

Published on
November 27, 2020

On 23 and 24 November 19 student teams of Universities from all over the world competed in the Food Systems Innovation Challenge. Wageningen University in collaboration with its partners from the A5 Alliance organized a student challenge for teams from A5 partners and other interested universities; “the Student Food System Innovation Challenge”. In this challenge all student teams presented innovative, practical and outstanding ideas on Food System Transformation.

Involving next generation leaders in the UN Food System Summit of 2021

The Student Food Systems Innovation Challenge was part of the virtual pre-event Bold Actions for Food as a Force for Good. A two day online event for organizations convening towards the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in 2021. Wageningen University & Research was one of the 12 organizations hosting this virtual event. The event convened leaders from governments, private sector, civil society, international organizations alongside innovators, farmers, financers, scientific experts and youth to initiate and accelerate action for food systems transformation. Special attention was given to the role of youth and involving next generation leaders in the UN Food Systems Summit of 2021 in the shape of the Student Food System Innovation Challenge.

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In the challenge 19 student teams from Universities from all over the world (Brazil, South Africa, the United States, The Netherlands, India, Czech Republic, Uganda, Belgium and China), competed by presenting their ideas on Food System Transformation in the shape of video pitches. These video pitches were shown throughout the first day of the event on the 23rd of November.

By exchanging knowledge, sharing ideas and tackling challenges related to Zero Hunger from different disciplinary angles, students shared their perspective on innovative ways of working on both food systems and trade-offs between the SDGs. A panel of experts (scientific committee from A5 universities) assessed the final contributions and decided which innovative idea and team won the challenge.

Closing session of the challenge, announcing the winning teams

The closing session of the Food Systems Innovation Challenge took place on the 24th of November from 10:30-12:00 and was broadcasted from the studio of Social Streaming in Leusden. The session was hosted by A5 Program Manager Paul Geurts from Wageningen University and Jente Fabriek, Youth Coordinator for the UNFSS pre-event of Wageningen University. In the closing session a synthesis of all contributions was presented and the outcomes were discussed in a panel discussion.


The panel constituted of UN Youth representatives Biodiversity & Food Eva Koffeman and Evi de Vet, Arnold Bregt as member of the A5 Jury panel, One Young World Ambassador, Entrepreneur Clarena Amatha from Kenya and Robin Callahan, participant of the Rabobank Food 4 Future hackathon. During the panel discussions the expert panel was able to ask questions to all the participating teams of the challenge about the feasibility, practical implementation and other  about the innovative ideas of the students.


At the end of the session Arnold Bregt presented the reflections of the Jury after which he announced the winners!

The second prizes of the challenge went to the below four teams. Each team won €500 of price money.

  • Team The Spedibles of KU Leuven, Belgium
  • Team Biochampions of Cornell University, United States
  • Team Tropicalia of the University of São Paulo (ESALQ), Brazil
  • Team Impact of National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM), India

The first prize of €2000 went to:

  • Team Waste’up with students from a mix of Dutch Universities, the TU Delft, InHolland and Wageningen University
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This team identified the problem of unused coffee pulp waste, declining coffee exports in Indonesia due to heavy rainfall, low farmer income, and food insecurity. Their solution was the idea of access to Pyrolysis technology for smallholder farmers as an alternative source of heat energy to dry and store coffee beans. This would decrease the reliance on weather conditions to avoid wastage and quality of farmer’s produce. Furthermore the by-product of the heating, biochar, could be used as a soil conditioner to increase crop yields, decrease farmer’s reliance on water and chemical fertilizer.

The Jury was very impressed by the contribution of this team due to the teams’ clear recognition of multiple aspects of food systems, the creativity of the idea, and mostly that there was a very clear sign of prove of concept feasibility of the idea.

It was very impressive to see all great contributions of so many young students from all over the world and inspiring to see such bold input!