How to feed nine billion people by 2050? On 20-22 September, the inaugural Thought for Food (TFF) Global Summit will be taking place in Berlin, where emerging talent from across the globe will come together to tackle this question. In a startup scene saturated with lifestyle apps and games, it’ll be refreshing to see budding entrepreneurs take on a “real” global problem and showcase their concepts.
Since Swiss agriculture giant Syngenta launched TFF in 2011, the initiative has secured a unique partnership with Sandbox, the network for entrepreneurs under 30, and its community has grown “to over 1,000 change-makers in 30 countries”.
“Thought for Food was created to bring a fresh new perspective to the global dilemma of food security and scarcity. As we focus on the long-term vision to improve agriculture, the environment and communities around the world, we are taking this opportunity to engage some of the brightest minds of the next generation,” said Christine Gould (right), Thought for Food founder and Syngenta Senior Manager of Global Public Policy and Partnerships, in a statement last year.
Challenging young talent to “uproot the status quo”
The Thought for Food Global Summit hopes to empower students, entrepreneurs, investors and public policy-leaders to learn about the complex challenges surrounding food security and develop innovations to tackle the problem. Additionally, it will serve as a platform for finalists from the TFF Challenge to work with mentors and pitch ideas to a panel of judges.
Over 100 teams from around the world have submitted project proposals – consisting of a business plan and creative pitch – to the challenge. Earlier this month, TFF announced the five finalists, who were given $1000 in seed money each to develop their ideas into a prototype. At the end of the summit in September, one winning team will be awarded the grand prize of $10,000 to implement its project.
Last year, finalists from the challenge presented at the One Young World Forum in Pittsburgh to an audience of big-name attendees including former US president Bill Clinton and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
“This year, we wanted to take it to the next level and create a fully fledged conference on the issue. It was either San Francisco or Berlin. And now we’re here in Berlin,” said Thought for Food Global Summit Producer Tobias Jaeger (left) in an interview with VentureVillage. The TFF team is in the German capital to check out the event venue, Alte Münze, and finalise the programme.
So why did TFF choose to host the event in Berlin rather than San Francisco?
If anywhere, he said, Berlin – the city bubbling with idealistic talent and “crazy ideas” – is the perfect place to begin a revolt against the agriculture industry’s mostly complacent and self-satisfied mentality towards solving problems.
Can we expect a TFF accelerator soon?
At first glance, the accelerator-like format of the TFF Challenge – which is currently only open to university student teams – seems like another well-manoeuvred corporate scheme to segue into the world of startups. And a step into that direction could be beneficial for both Syngenta and startups interested in innovating that space, although Jaeger stated that “there are no plans to make that happen right now”.
“Everything that the students develop is completely their idea. The company or the sponsors don’t have a stake in the project – they don’t have claims of any sort. It’s really about connecting emerging talent to the people and resources they need to make the idea happen. In the food and agriculture sector, a revolution is long overdue,” said Jaeger.
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