Thursday 08 December 2022 - 10:43:35 pm

iFarm, Palm Co. win 'The CovHack Virtual Innovation Challenge' on circular food economy

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DUBAI, 21st July, 2020 (WAM) -- Innovate4Good, I4G, a purpose-driven sourcing, networking, and innovation platform for the impact start-up and entrepreneurship ecosystem, has announced the winners of "The CovHack Virtual Innovation Challenge" that took place under the theme "Circular Economy for Food".

iFarm, from Finland, topped the Start-ups category, while Palm Co. from the UAE dominated the Teams category.

iFarm is an indoor farming solutions provider of plug-and-play automated vertical farms that can be set up anywhere – from stores, restaurants, and warehouses to people’s homes – and enable people to grow healthy food sustainably. Meanwhile, Palm Co. has developed sustainable, affordable, and compostable food packaging using palm fibres as the main component.

The runner-up in the Start-ups category was Xilinat, an award-winning company from Mexico that makes low-calorie natural sweetener from agricultural residue, while Circa Biotech from the UAE that upcycles food waste into animal feed using insect farming came second in the Teams category.

The challenge ran in collaboration with UN75, the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MoCCAE, Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, Khalifa Fund, Masdar (A Mubadala Company), Catalyst (A Masdar – BP Initiative), Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park, SRTI Park, StartLife, Wageningen University & Research, WUR, and STRATECIS.

Corresponding to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal, SDG, 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, the theme encompassed eight focus areas: Water Efficiency and Alternative Resources; Energy Efficiency in Agriculture; Innovation in Sustainable Growing Media; Sustainable Greenhouse Technologies and Smart Farming; Food Loss and Waste Management; Distribution Channels and Delivery; Sustainable Packaging; and Urban and Indoor Farming.

The challenge received 339 entries. A total of 112 applications – 43 in the Teams category and 69 in the Start-ups category – from 44 countries qualified for the challenge. A panel of 10 judges selected 12 teams from eight countries and 20 start-ups from 15 countries to proceed to the next round. The UAE had the strongest representation with four teams and four start-ups, followed by Lebanon with two teams and one start-up, and Canada with three start-ups.

The event culminated in The CovHack Virtual Demo Day on 20th and 21st July that saw the finalists present their solutions to the judges on Zoom.

Sheikh Dr Majid Sultan Al Qassimi, Advisor to the Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said, "The journey food takes is one few of us know but are all affected by. Today, we have become more aware of and sensitised to the origin and journey of our food. The circular food economy is more relevant than ever, and the more these circular principles can be implemented, the stronger our future and economy will be."

Mouza Obaid Al Nasri, Acting CEO of Khalifa Fund, said, "Since its inception, Khalifa Fund has been committed to working in cross-sectoral collaborations with government entities and industry-leading partners to produce initiatives and programmes that positively contribute to the UAE and its entrepreneurial ecosystem."

Ara Fernezian, Founder and CEO of STRATECIS and Chief Innovation and Experience Officer at I4G, said, "Today’s entrepreneurs, especially the younger generation, are taking environmental and social issues into account more seriously, starting at the ideation stage of their offer and aligning them with their long-term business goals. This is becoming a growing trend and standard business practice."

The winners will benefit from incubation, mentorship, and acceleration support from MoCCAE, Khalifa Fund, and SRTI Park. The winner and runner-up in the Start-ups category – iFarm and Xilinat – will also have the chance to participate in Catalyst’s and SRTI Park’s acceleration programmes with up to US$240,000 of funding opportunity, subject to eligibility.


WAM/Hassan Bashir/MOHD AAMIR