WFP partners with Silicon Valley experts to accelerate innovations aiming to #DisruptHunger globally

The world’s pressures on food supply is changing, and new approaches are needed to help humanitarian food aid and delivery. New ideas come to the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Innovation Accelerator, sometimes from people who already work within the organization, but also from external sources in the private sector, academia, or related industries. The WFP Innovation Accelerator accepts proposals and the best proposals have the chance to attend our intensive 1-week WFP Innovation Bootcamp where they put their ideas to the test.

After 21 bootcamps held at our home base in Munich, Germany, we worked in partnership with the WFP-USA national office to bring the bootcamp and WFP’s global work to Silicon Valley, where we could leverage tech sector expertise to assist the innovation teams looking to disrupt hunger around the world. For one week, 55 innovators from around the world joined us in San Francisco to work alongside leading tech companies and experts. They were divided into six Early Stage innovation teams looking to build and test their ideas, and five advanced stage Scale-Up projects who had already proven concepts and were looking to scale their impact and reach.

Jeremy Neuner, Head of Launchpad, takes the Early Stage Start-Up teams through some design thinking at the Google Developer’s Launchpad space.

The Early Stage innovators were hosted at the inspiring Google Developers Launchpad space in San Francisco. The bootcamp for advanced Scale-Up innovators was hosted by Orange Silicon Valley. Each team met with specialized tech sector professionals, mentors, and other innovators, analyzed their ideas, injected lean-startup business processes, and considered human-centered design. This process helped teams hone and focus their proposals towards a high energy Pitch Night, in front of an audience of potential supporters and investors.

Watch the entire Pitch Night at WFP-USA’s Facebook page.

Elisa Omodei, data scientist and predictive analytics lead, pitches WFP’s new AI-powered early stage project, HungerMapLive; an interactive dashboard that tracks and predicts food crises in near real-time.

Eleven outstanding ideas were presented. Among the Early Stage Start-Ups, projects included HungerMapLive, an AI-assisted crisis map to provide humanitarian responders with data to predict hunger crises before they happen; the GrainATM that dispenses grains to create access to food in rural India; Fenik’s off-grid refrigeration unit that requires no energy; Roambee’s Internet of Things tracking system for delivery to the last mile and every point in between; and the Tamwini digital ID app that allows people in Iraq to access services without having to rely on ineffective paper systems.

The Scale-Up teams represented innovations already being tested in WFP’s field operations, with the objective of scaling up their impact or reach. ShareTheMeal is an app which mobilizes microdonations to support WFP’s global operations; H2Grow is a hydroponic system that allows people to grow food with no soil and 90% less water; PLUS School Menus is software that calculates the most cost-effective menus that meet the nutritional requirements of children of different age groups; EMPACT is a digital skills training program that prepares refugee and war-affected youth for the future of work; and PRISM (Platform for Real-time Impact and Situation Monitoring) combines remote sensing data and population vulnerability information to produce risk and impact analytics.

The team pitches were evaluated by a jury of Silicon Valley experts who included: Jaleh Daie, founder of AgFood Tech, Band of Angels; Ennis Olson, Global Innovation Portfolio Manager, Food @ Google; Emily High Daniels, WFP-USA Board Member and Strategic Advisor at Brown Advisory; Joe Stone, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Leader — Agricultural Supply Chain at Cargill and WFP-USA Board Member; and Neda Amidi, Partner & Global Head, Health at Plug and Play. The jury awarded the “Most Impactful Pitch” of the night to the “GrainMate” team from Ghana. GrainMate is a tool that allows smallholder farmers to measure and monitor moisture in their produce before storage to reduce post-harvest losses. This easy-to-use tool is affordable, accessible, and can be leased on a customized grain loan program.

The GrainMate team from Ghana wins “Most Impactful Pitch,” accompanied by jury lead Jaleh Daie, founder of AgFood Tech, Band of Angels (left), and Bernhard Kowatsch, head of WFP Innovation Accelerator (right).
The team from the EMPACT scale-up project meets with potential investors to discuss opportunities to grow this far reaching project that empowers youth with digital skills and prepares them for the future of work.

Following the pitches from both the Early Stage and Scale-Up teams, all team members were invited to meet with potential investors, with social time to meet with the partners.

Group photo of the teams and partners of the WFP Innovation Accelerator Bootcamp — Silicon Valley Edition!

While this was the first innovation bootcamp away from our home base in Munich, Germany, it certainly is not our last. We bring the Innovation Bootcamp to Dar es Salaam in November 2019, where we partner with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and work with the WFP Innovation Hub and WFP Country Office in Tanzania to accelerate new ideas to increase the impact and uptake of vaccination health services with the help of the East African innovation community.

For updates, follow @WFPinnovation on Twitter, use the hashtag #DisruptHunger, or visit the WFP Innovation Challenge at innovation.wfp.org/apply

Related News Stories:

WFP Innovation Accelerator

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Inspiring and supporting new solutions to #disrupthunger

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