Elevator Pitch Contest for aflatoxin control winners revealed

Geneva, Switzerland – The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has announced the winners of the Elevator Pitch Contest, which called for innovative ideas to remove aflatoxins from our food system.

Kumwe Harvest and Future Food Now were chosen from six finalists who pitched their ideas to a panel of experts and potential investors at the 19th World Congress of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) in Mumbai, India from October 23-27, 2018.

Benedikt Suter, Board Member for the Sight and Life Foundation, and Vish Prakash, Scientific Council Chair for the IUFoST, presented each winner with USD 15,000 in seed funds to further develop their concept.

Tried-and-tested concept

Kumwe Harvest, in partnership with local fortified food producer Africa Improved Foods (AIF) Rwanda, proposed its existing ‘just-in-time’ approach to virtually eliminate the development of aflatoxin and transform farmers’ post-harvest process into a quick and efficient operation.

Over the past four seasons, Kumwe Harvest has bought unshelled maize on the cob from farmers after harvest, transported it to a central processing facility for immediate shelling and drying, before delivering to commercial buyers. It now achieves 100% quality acceptance rates with an aflatoxin limit of five parts per billion.

This tried-and-tested concept aims to be taken to the next level by working with 80,000 farmers over the next three years to provide 30,000 tonnes of maize to commercial agribusinesses in Rwanda.

“This is an incredible opportunity for us to increase the numbers of farmers we work with and eliminate aflatoxin across the maize supply chain in Rwanda,” said Alexandra Sanderson, Programme Director for Kumwe Harvest. “As a result, we can continue to set a new paradigm for the regional maize value-chain, creating shared value for all stakeholders.”

Insect farm approach

Future Food Now offered its entomophagy-based pilot project where aflatoxin at-risk groundnut cake, as a by-product from oil crushing, is used as a feed source for insect farming at an insect farm, which will be based near Malawian groundnut processor Afri-Oils’ crushing plant.

The idea is to use insect farming technology to specifically target aflatoxin at-risk food chains, namely groundnuts, and potentially maize, in Malawi. It follows a circular economy approach where waste products are repurposed as feed for insects, and redirected away from human food markets.

“We are delighted to have won and will use the prize funds to kick-start our pilot insect protein farm in Malawi by undertaking partnerships with universities and businesses working in this field,” said Alexandra Warrington, Researcher in Sustainable Food at Future Food Now. “An aflatoxin-free food chain can only be achieved when stakeholders across the supply chains work together in a holistic approach, and we are determined to be part of the solution.”

Seeking disruptive ideas

The contest was organised in partnership with the Sight and Life Foundation, Mars Incorporated and Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN), and funded by the Government of Canada as part of the Business Platform for Nutrition Research (BPNR).

Earlier this year, students, post-doctoral researchers and young professionals from across the globe were invited to enter their novel product, service, technology, application or approach to cut or eliminate exposure to aflatoxin-contaminated foods and feed.

Aflatoxins is one of the greatest risks to food security in developing countries, causing significant health problems such as liver damage, liver cancer, immune suppression and growth impairment in children.

About the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) is an international organisation launched at the UN in 2002 to tackle human suffering caused by malnutrition. We work with partners to make healthier food choices more affordable, available and desirable. Our purpose is to improve nutrition outcomes by improving the consumption of nutritious and safe food for all, especially the most vulnerable. www.gainhealth.org

About the Business Platform for Nutrition Research (BPNR)

The Business Platform for Nutrition Research (BPNR) is an initiative that brings together multiple sectors with a common interest in nutrition research. We use the research abilities of businesses across the globe to define, fund and extend new research to help improve nutrition for people in low and middle-income countries. The BPNR, launched at the UN General Assembly in New York in 2013, is co-funded by the Government of Canada and hosted by GAIN. www.gainhealth.org/programs/business-platform-nutrition-research-bpnr/

About Sight and Life Foundation

Sight and Life is a humanitarian nutrition think tank delivering innovative solutions to eliminate all forms of malnutrition in children and women of childbearing age and improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations. It delivers value in the nutrition sphere by accelerating the translation of research to innovative solutions at scale. Its work begins with a profound understanding of the biological factors that influence the nutritional status, how to add nutrition value to food value chains, and ends with research on healthy choices for consumers. It translates its scientific knowledge to build sustainable business models and public-sector programs that deliver best possible strategies to communities. www.sightandlife.org

About Mars Incorporated

Mars Incorporated is a diversified international company ranked in 1992 as the leading manufacturer of candy and confectionery products. In 2017, Mars, Inc. launched the Sustainable in a Generation Plan around food safety and security, product and ingredient renovation, and responsible marketing, with a commitment to advancing nutrition, health and wellbeing around the world. www.mars.com/global

About the Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN)

In 2016, GAIN and its partners created the Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (PLAN) to bring together a multitude of public and private sector actors addressing this issue to collectively reduce loss of nutritious foods throughout the supply chain. www.gainhealth.org/programs/postharvest-loss-alliance-for-nutrition/

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Published 5 December 2018