8 disruptive innovations for a world without hunger

Meet our latest cohort of start-ups and WFP innovation teams striving to create a future without hunger. Register here to attend the WFP Pitch Event on 30 June 2022.

By Gulia Rakhimova

Participants in an in-person WFP Innovation Bootcamp in Munich, Germany, 2019. Photo: WFP/Joerg Koch.

Imagine using microbes to track food; producing nutrition bars from climate-resilient crops; and turning waste into fertilizer with the help of insects.

These are some of the innovative projects participating in the 43rd Innovation Bootcamp of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), which takes place virtually from 20 to 24 June 2022.

This Bootcamp concludes last year’s WFP Innovation Challenge, which focused on rethinking the global food system. Following three calls for applications, 1,350 teams within and outside WFP submitted solutions in areas such as resilience to shocks and stress, access to safe and nutritious food, and advancing equitable livelihoods for all. Twenty-four made the cut — including eight teams in this Bootcamp featuring projects from across the globe, from El Salvador to Rwanda and to the Philippines.

WFP Innovation Bootcamp and Pitch Event

The WFP Innovation Bootcamp is an opportunity for teams to ideate further and refine their solutions to become field-ready. Over the course of the week, they will participate in workshops and one-on-one mentorship with industry experts on user research, human-centered design, prototyping, market access, and other areas.

On Thursday, 30 June, the teams will take our virtual stage at the WFP Pitch Event themed “How innovation can help overcome the current food crisis”. Each team will have only five minutes to showcase their work and progress to potential funders, government officials, and industry leaders.

To secure a seat at the WFP Pitch Event, register here.

Read on to discover the eight innovation teams:

Payment Instrument Tracking (PIT) — Digitizing cash assistance

Payment Instrument Tracking (PIT) is WFP’s application to speed up cash-based transfers of humanitarian assistance.

WFP is the largest provider of cash-based transfers, the money given to people to buy what they need in their local markets. Manual handling processes are still prevalent in some locations, resulting in lengthy waiting times for people receiving assistance. The PIT team designed a digital system that tracks and simplifies the distribution of assistance cards end-to-end, minimizing delays and manual errors.

Munyange holds up the digital cash card from WFP which she will use to buy food. The cash meets the immediate food gap while families build resilience against climate-related shocks. Photo: WFP/Martin Karimi.

Kitchen in a Box — Enabling safe school meals

Kitchen in a Box is a WFP project that equips schools to serve healthy meals.

Schools participating in the school feeding programme in El Salvador may lack adequate facilities such as kitchens, warehouses, and dining areas, increasing the risk of food contamination. This project supplies schools with adaptable, easy-to-maintain “kitchens in a box” made from shipping containers. Each unit contains essential kitchen appliances, cooking tools, smoke extractors and sinks.

Aanika Biosciences — Molecular-level solutions to global problems

Aanika Biosciences is a start-up that uses microbes to trace food products.

Tracing the origin of contaminated or counterfeit food can be critical for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of food assistance. Yet current supply chains rely heavily on packaging and barcodes that don’t give full information about the journey of individual items. Aanika Biosciences uses edible microbes as authentication tags that can be incorporated directly into food products and read out along the supply chain.

Illustration of the Aanika technology. Illustration: Aanika Biosciences, Inc.

Rebug to Debug — Insect farming for zero waste

Rebug to Debug uses insects to turn maize waste into valuable bioproducts.

Maize grown in Rwanda is heavily affected by aflatoxin, a fungal toxin that can harm human and animal health. Major food manufacturers reject up to 90 percent of the local maize infected by aflatoxin, resulting in a loss in the value chain and farmers’ incomes. Rebug to Debug uses the endemic black soldier fly larvae to transform contaminated maize into organic fertilizer, creating new income opportunities for farmers.

GeoTar — Geospatial vulnerability profiling and targeting system

GeoTar is a WFP project that improves targeting in humanitarian operations.

Geographic targeting, the process by which populations are selected for WFP’s assistance, may be less precise due to a lack of data, such as in conflict-affected areas. This means that some people may not get assistance right away, while others get it if they happen to be in the right place at the right time. GeoTar uses artificial intelligence to construct an innovative geospatial multidimensional vulnerability score that can improve targeting to the individual household level.

GeoTar will use satellite imagery to improve the precision of geographic targeting. Photo: ESA/ATG medialab.

Sustainable Fuel for Cooking — Biogas from an alternative source

Sustainable Fuel for Cooking is WFP’s project to produce biogas from water plants.

Cooking fuel is scarce in many parts of South Sudan due to deforestation, flooding, and reliance on firewood and charcoal. This project creates biogas from the aquatic plant water hyacinth. It is a low-cost, readily available raw material in South Sudan’s waterways. Water hyacinth can be processed into biogas for cooking using locally-made digesters and stoves.

Chimoney — Global cash transfers

Chimoney is a company enabling fast, secure and inclusive cash transfers globally.

Sending cash internationally can be challenging and costly, with limited cash-out options and high transaction fees. Chimoney’s solution can support humanitarian operations using cash-based transfers in countries with less developed financial infrastructure. It offers diverse money transfer services worldwide, including mobile money, and is connected to over 1,000 banks in Africa and North America.

Global value transfers to contributors, campaigns, and communities: Chimoney can be sent from and to anyone in the world. Illustration: Chimoney/Faheed Alli-Balogun.

CROPS Nutri Bar — Locally produced nutritious bars

WFP’s CROPS (Creating Responsive Opportunities towards Progress and Sustainability) project promotes the local production of nutritious bars.

Bangsamoro, an autonomous region in the southern Philippines, faces high levels of food insecurity due to protracted armed conflict, COVID-19, and climate shocks. CROPS has developed a nutrition bar from locally available, climate-resilient crops. This healthy, ready-to-eat snack can provide immediate nutrition for schoolchildren and people during emergencies.

Can your solution be next on the list?

The WFP Innovation Challenge 2022 is currently accepting applications. If you have a solution enabling communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change, this is your opportunity to contribute to a future without hunger. Apply here before 30 June 2022, 11:59 (CEST).

We are excited to see where the journey is going for each team. Follow each project’s progress during the Bootcamp from 20 to 24 June 2022 on Twitter @WFPInnovation.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide. We provide WFP staff, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support and WFP operations.

Find out more about us: http://innovation.wfp.org. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and watch our videos on YouTube.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.