Zhejiang University: Global youth showcase digital solutions to challenges of poverty and hunger

On December 9, 10 youth-led teams pitched their innovative solutions at the on-line Pitch Event of the Global AgriInno Challenge (GAC) 2021, which attracted over 600 viewers from five continents.

GAC 2021, themed on “Digital Villages: Solutions for the Four Betters”, was co-organized by Zhejiang University (ZJU) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with the support from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, China and Pinduoduo, a leading e-commerce platform in China.

“The ongoing pandemic has further demonstrated how vulnerable our currentagrifood systems are to shock and destruction,” pointed out Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, chief scientist at FAO, in her opening remarks, adding that the number of undernourished people increased by as many as 161 million people in 2021 alone according to the FAO report.

“The organizing of the GAC 2021 demonstrates how FAO intends to support the achievement of the SDG agenda and reflects the interconnected economic, social and environmental dimensions of agrifood systems,” Dr. Elouafi stressed.

Prof. HE Lianzhen, ZJU’s vice president, echoed this point in her opening speech by sharing ZJU’s commitment to the SDGs. In March 2021, Zhejiang University launched its Sustainability Action Plan: A Global ZJU for Social Good, shortened as “Z4G”. “In the same vein,” said Prof. He, “GAC is another important event in line with Z4G.”

“The objective of the event is to accelerate and scale-up youth-led innovative business models and digital solutions, and promote the evolution of digital agricultural transformation,” Prof. He introduced.

Ms. LI Zhiping, deputy director-general of Foreign Economic Cooperation Center (FECC), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China, also noted at the opening ceremony that FECC works with all relevant partners to boost agricultural innovation.

The 10 finalists were selected out of the 157 applications from 37 countries for their outstanding potential and the promising impact of their projects for the future of local and global agrifood systems. These 10 teams came from a wide array of countries including Canada, China, Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom and United States of America.

The teams participated in 36-hour online training to further polish their solutions before the roadshow at the pitch event in front of an international jury from ZJU, FAO, International Telecommunication Union, World Tourism Organization, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Top Cloud Agri-Tech Company.

After serious competition and deliberation, the three winners were announced, with the gold medal being awarded to “Grow For Me” from Ghana, whose solution is an interconnected value chain financing platform, that provides micro-financing to people in rural areas via mobile money to buy commodities directly from farmers.

The silver medal was given to EPTeck Technologies from Germany and Pakistan, with their solution “Remote Well” that helps control and monitor irrigation systems.

The bronze medal was bestowed to “Point Grass into Gold” from China, which prepares high-quality forage for cattle and sheep, forming an animal husbandry circulating forage production chain that combines planting and breeding.

The winning teams will receive the seed funding sponsored by Pinduoduo and free access to the Digital Agriculture Innovation Camp 2022 jointly organized by ZJU and FAO.

“We are excited about the validation and the opportunity to scale our solutions in Africa. We look forward to making this to impact the remotest of farmers on the continent.” shared Nana Prempeh from “Grow For Me”, the Gold Medal winning team.