By Lauren Badell
Innovation in food takes all forms, from crafting an energy bar that eases nausea to one made out of crickets, from using soldier fly grubs to break down food waste to an app that learns to read a user’s food preferences, not unlike Netflix. All of these ideas and more were presented at the Food City Challenge Prize day on Saturday.
Each of the 20 finalists had their own unique way of addressing the many intricacies of how we feed cities, challenging our notions of how the supply chain works, the food that enters and the waste that leaves. At the second annual event, entrepreneurial energy and curiosity filled the atrium of the McCombs School of Business on the University of Texas campus. Throughout the day, hundreds of people milled through the space, not only learning about the many different facets of food entrepreneurship represented, but also engaging in conversations with each other about the challenges that face our food supply systems today.
The Gold Prize, which included a check for $30,000, a scholarship for two team members to participate in the Food Business School’s (FBS) Food Venture Lab and a variety of other startup goodies from sponsors MOO.com, Barnraiser and MWR Legal, was awarded to True Made Foods, a startup based out of New York City that makes vegetable-based, lower-sugar condiments, including ketchup and barbecue sauce.
Four $5,000 Silver Prizes were awarded this year to The Food Corridor, an online marketplace for food entrepreneurs to find commercial kitchen space; Agruppa, a service in Latin America that leverages technology to empower small foods vendors in low income neighborhoods by providing them with fruits and vegetables at wholesale prices; Garbage to Garden, a self-funded, market-based curbside composting company; and Real Food Solutions, maker of the Anchor Nutrition Bar, a Boston-based company that uses existing clinical research to create food-based remedies for everyday ailments, including nausea.
More than 6,000 people participated in both online and physical voting at the event in order to pick the crowd favorite. The winner of the People’s Choice award was Regrub, a waste management solution that utilizes the natural life cycle of the soldier fly to turn food waste into fertilizer or feed. The founders, who are freshmen at Texas A&M, walked away with a $250 credit from MOO.com, concierge campaign services from Barnraiser, as well as enrollment in an online course at the Food Business School.
Beyond the main prizes given at the event, there was also recognition given to the top ten finalists, as well as a certificate from the University of Texas’ dietetics team, honoring those teams that had a particular focus on important nutritional topics, such as healthy eating and sustainability. The top ten finalists, including those already mentioned, were St. Louis Metro Market, Steak TzarTzar, Tastegraphy and Tree Adoption Uganda.
Later this week, we’ll tell you about some of the under-the-radar stories we heard during the Challenge Prize event. In the meantime, check out photos from the day on our Facebook page, Instagram or Twitter.