2024 Food Systems Innovation Challenge

To create a world without hunger, in which everyone has access to sustainable, healthy, safe and affordable food we need to transform our food systems. Countries around the world translated their commitments to reaching this goal by 2030 into National pathways to sustainable food systems, linked to the UN Food Systems Summit. The Food Systems Innovation Challenge strives to cultivate youth engagement and entrepreneurship by actively involving young individuals in these pathways and other national efforts concerning socially and environmentally sustainable food systems.

The students in the challenge are provided with connections to influential stakeholders, access to high-level events and (knowledge) support from universities to transform their ideas into reality. Through the Food Systems Innovation Challenge, students will not only gain knowledge but also valuable hands-on experiences. The challenge facilitates meaningful connections between students working across interdisciplinary and interdisciplinary fields.

How to participate?

Teams from the participating universities could register between 8 January and 11 March 2024 by submitting a Concept Note. Each university will select two teams.

Participating universities

  • Anton de Kom Universiteit, Suriname
  • Esalq-USP, Brazil
  • Kathmandu University, Nepal
  • Lukenya University, Kenya
  • Makerere University, Uganda
  • University of Abuja, Nigeria
  • University of Ghana, Ghana
  • Wageningen University & Research
  • Wollo University, Ethiopia

Team formation

  • The teams consist of 2 to 5 students
  • It’s recommended to form a team of students with different disciplinary backgrounds
  • Students can form mixed teams, meaning they can come from different universities (including universities that are not on the list of participating universities in this challenge)
  • However, at least 2 of the team members should be from the participating university
  • At least 2 of the team members should be on site during the challenge period (April-September)
  • Recently graduates are welcome to join the Challenge, though the graduation should not be earlier than academic year 2022/2023. With a maximum of 1 recent graduate per team
  • We strive to complement each team with a student from a Dutch university (of applied sciences), like WUR. They will work remotely together with the team and will be on top of the 2 to 5 students

Are you a student of a Dutch University (of Applied Sciences)?

You can join one of the teams of the universities in Brazil, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Suriname or Uganda! You will work remotely together and bring in your knowledge and network. It will be a great learning experience in both ways.

During the registration process (registration closed on 11 March) you can indicate the top three preference for university/ country and you will be asked to write a short motivation. Be aware that you will be assigned to a team after they were selected by their university. This means that you will join a team that will already have a concept for the project.

The assignment

The teams need to come up with a Food System Innovation in their own surroundings. They are challenged to design a project plan and to implement it during the challenge period from April 2024 to September 2024. The projects should be feasible, sustainable, scalable, and have impact.

The implemented innovation will: 1) contribute to the national food systems pathways of the country where it will be implemented, 2) relate to food or water security, and 3) focus on these three overall themes:


The challenge works with 3 types of partners that each fulfil their unique role:

Key partners

The challenge has a strong focus on building a partnership between universities and has a strong connection to food systems transformation pathways in the different countries. The Food Systems Innovation Challenge aims to build a partnership with universities to support youth engagement and entrepreneurship in food systems transitions.

  • Wageningen University & Research
  • Netherlands Food Partnership
  • Anton de Kom Universiteit, Suriname
  • Esalq-USP, Brazil
  • Kathmandu University, Nepal
  • Lukenya University, Kenya
  • Makerere University, Uganda
  • University of Abuja, Nigeria
  • University of Ghana, Ghana
  • Wollo University, Ethiopia

Support partners

The support partners support the promotion, facilitate linkages to national and international policy fora, impact partners, opportunities for knowledge and skills development for the student teams and scaling of promising concept ideas.

  • International Association of students in Agriculture and related Sciences (IAAS)
  • World Food Forum (WFF)
  • Youth Food Lab (YFL)
  • University Fund Wageningen - Wageningen Ambassadors
  • WUR program: Food and water security (KB-35)

Impact partners

The impact partners will provide project money for two teams per university/country in the challenge. The teams will use the money to work on their project. The impact partners will be engaged by the universities, with support from WUR, NFP and the support partners. The mission and impact of the impact partners should contribute to the national food systems pathway and the focus of the challenge in the country where they operate. They will be matched to a student team that best fits their mission.

Advisory Board

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Contact persons

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WUR Food Systems Approach

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I participate?

You can sign up as a team by filling out the registration form which includes a concept note. Each university will then select two teams. Students from Dutch Universities (of applied sciences) can also participate individually by joining one of the partner universities teams. The registrations are open from January 8 and March 11, 2024.

Can I participate as an individual student?

Yes, individual students from Dutch universities (of applied sciences) can join teams of the partner universities. During the registration process, you can indicate your top three preferences for university/country, and provide a short motivation.

Which level of study do I need to be to participate in this challenge?

Both bachelor and master students can participate in this challenge. Recently graduated students (academic year 2022/2023 onwards) are also welcome, with a maximum of 1 recent graduate per team.

Can I participate if my University is not involved in the challenge?

Mixed teams from different universities are allowed, but at least 2 members must be from the participating university.

Is the challenge only for agriculture students?

The challenge is not limited to agriculture students; it is open to participants from various academic backgrounds. We encourage to form multidisciplinary teams as the challenge welcomes perspectives from fields beyond agriculture, including social sciences.

What is the assignment for the teams?

Teams need to propose a Food System Innovation in their local context, design a project plan, and implement it from April 2024 to September 2024. Projects should be feasible, sustainable, scalable, and impactful, addressing ecological sustainability, nutrition/healthy diets, and social inclusion. Projects should also address and adapt to the country's National pathways to sustainable food systems.

Where can I find the concept note?

The concept note can be found under the Download the format concept note on the website of the challenge.

What is the workload of the challenge?

The challenge's workload depends on your team and the level of effort you intend to invest. Based on our experience with past challenges, the typical workload ranges from 4 to 8 hours per week.

What are National pathways to sustainable food systems and where can I find one for my country?

It is a comprehensive and dynamic strategy developed by a Member State in collaboration with stakeholders, under the guidance of a nominated National Convenor. This strategy is designed to address challenges and opportunities within the country's food systems. The pathway document serves as a reference point for the government and all involved parties, offering a blueprint for achieving a vision of sustainable food systems.

You can find the National pathways to sustainable food system for your country on the UN food systems hub website. If your country doesn’t have a pathway (yet), you don’t have to address that question in the Concept Note.

How much funding does each team get to develop their idea?

The seed funding for each of the 2 selected teams per participating university is up to 2500€. Since the funding is acquired through our impact partners on every university the exact amount will be known before the official start of the challenge. It is important to include the budget in the team application and how you are planning to spend your funds during the challenge.

If you haven't found the information you're looking for in our FAQ section, please feel free to reach out to us through the contact form on the website.