Rabobank and MIT have announced the top prize winners of the fourth annual Rabobank-MIT Food & Agribusiness Innovation Prize, a premier business-plan competition for early-stage start-ups developed by students.
Gramhal, an end-to-end digital and mobile-enabled solution for storage, credit and sales to smallholder farmers in India, won the top prize of $20,000. Its platform empowers farmers to access better prices for their crops in the market through collective selling power. Velaron, which earned the second-place prize of $10,000, aims to create a first-ever marketplace for commercially farmed and traded seafood, helping to promote and achieve more sustainable aquaculture globally by enabling risk-hedging and trading.
The university-based competition, which invites teams to pitch innovative business plans focused on sustainable products and technologies in food and agribusiness, is sponsored by Rabobank in partnership with MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) and the MIT Food and Agriculture Club. The competition is open to many leading universities, with applicants this year from Yale, Harvard, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, Cornell and MIT.
“We are perennially impressed by the highly innovative pitches the student finalists prepare to address some of the most important issues related to food and agriculture globally,” said David Bassett, Rabobank Head of Wholesale Banking North America. “This annual Rabobank student competition, along with our global innovation platforms for established start-ups, such as our pitch competition and networking event, FoodBytes!, and our food and ag tech start-up and corporate co-piloting accelerator, Terra, is part of our continuous effort to foster innovation that addresses the sector’s most pressing challenges in commercially viable ways.”
The winners also receive mentoring from Rabobank subject matter experts and are connected to Rabobank’s vibrant, global network of food, agriculture, and innovation professionals, clients and partners. A total of seven finalist teams competed in the final pitch event on May 1 in Cambridge, Masschusetts. Over fifty teams applied for the competition in the Fall of 2018, and the finalists were selected in January and paired with mentors to sharpen their submissions.
“Our goal is to give these student-run enterprises a supportive head start so they can capitalize on the great promise that they have,” said Tejal Mody, Managing Director at Rabobank.