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Like every year the alliance of Hult International Business School and the United Nations, brought us the largest competition in the world for university students focused on accelerating social entrepreneurship projects. This competition called the Hult Prize and also known as the “Nobel Prize for Students” launched the 2021 challenge to search for projects focused on solving food systems challenges considering seven of the sustainable development goals. The competition is not easy since hundreds of universities participate with thousands of projects around the world and the proposals must have the capacity to impact 10,000,000 people by 2030 since the prize is nothing more and nothing less than a million dollars.
Hult Prize via Instagram
In previous years we have seen cases of students from all over the world passing regional competitions and climbing to the semifinals and finals of the award. On more than one occasion we have had teams from Mexico and in 2019 this country took first place awarded by the former president of the United States. Therefore, with deserved desire when there is a Mexican team participating, the spotlights turn to see them. In the 2021 competition, it was no exception, Mexico had a winner.
Personally, I am a social entrepreneur and I have also taught social entrepreneurship for some years, encouraging students to participate in this competition, having the opportunity to have been a mentor to a couple of teams that have reached the finals. As a Mexican, it is always a pride to see national teams representing us, but this year was different, I was able to meet and support another team on the other side of the world representing their country for the first time in the Hult Prize . Just a year ago I changed my residence from Mexico to Qatar and I want to tell you the story of these two teams, Mexico and Qatar, who met in a castle in England with the same goal, but different solutions.
From Mexico: AhDiablo
- Team members: Joel González Gómez, Jayat González Palomeras and Damián Tapia Romero
- University: Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM)
- Instagram: @ahdiablomx
Joel Gonzáles and Jayat González / Image: Courtesy AhDiablo team
I want to start by telling the story of “AhDiablo”, the only Mexican team to win the Hult Prize 2021 and winner of a seed capital of 150,000 US dollars. In the midst of a scandal by the award organizing team that led to the postponement without a million dollar winner, they received this seed capital to continue growing their company among only seven teams that reached the global final. The interesting thing about them is that they developed the project in the middle of the pandemic and they did not know each other in person, they met through a WhatsApp group at their university, the three of them live in different States of the Mexican Republic.
In the early stages of development they had to do a lot of research as they knew the problem but not the solution. They found that in Mexico there are invasive fish species and that for more than 30 years nothing has been done about it, these species negatively impact the environment and compete with the ecosystems with endemic species. In order to solve this problem they give an economic value to these species. They expect to start operations next January 2022.
“We develop a traceable, sustainable and efficient value chain to work hand in hand with small-scale local fishermen and increase their income levels. This, while we help regenerate the environment and give more space for endemic species to develop ”, stated Joel González, a member of the team.
From Qatar: Revive
- Members: Kateba al-Ghazali, Sumaya Yusuf and Nosheen Zehra
- University: Qatar University (QU)
- Instagram: @ revivefood.qa
Kateba al-Ghazali, Nosheen Zehra and Sumaya Yusuf / Image: Courtesy of the Revive team
The story of these three nutrition students who met at Qatar University is undoubtedly extraordinary, although they are not natives of Qatar, they represented the country for the first time in this international competition. Living in this country for several years, they experienced the commercial blockade of neighboring countries that put Qatar in a situation of food crisis for a period, being a desert region, many of the food products are imported so, As of that year, 2017, a strict policy for local consumption and production was implemented, causing large investments in the agri-food sector.
They investigated the sector and its challenges, finding that there is an overproduction of some foods that end up being wasted. Following the national vision to achieve sustainability including food safety, they sought solutions to this problem and developed Revive . Revive is a brand of freeze-dried fruit snacks that gives a second life to fruits that are overproduced by transforming them into delicious slices that do not require refrigeration and have a life of up to 25 years. It is a scalable business model at an international level, since food waste is a constant.
When I heard about Revive as a Mexican who has supported teams to participate in the Hult Prize , I knew that I had to meet the team. The support of the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Qatar has been very favorable, many people and organizations helped them and they tell me that they are very grateful. In their plan to continue growing, the project will carry out a pre-seed investment round to start operations in 2022.
It is worth mentioning that the AhDiablo team and the Revive team met in the competition when they went to a castle in England. I had the opportunity to meet both teams and as an expert I believe that the support that the teams receive from their universities is essential to encourage them to participate and travel to the different stages of the competition. Although each country has very different contexts, these two teams with very different solutions also came together with the same goal, to solve the challenges of the food system in the world.