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How to feed nine billion people by 2050? Startups take aim at global food security Written by Charmaine Li on 23. September 2013


The team behind Henlight – a solar-powered light that stimulates egg production in chickens – went home with $10,000 after winning a pitch competition at the Thought For Food (TFF) Summit held in Berlin this past weekend. Five budding entrepreneurial teams from across the globe presented their ideas to a panel of judges on how to tackle one pressing question: How to feed nine billion people by 2050?

Held at Alte Münze – decked out in cool cardboard signs and bathed in multicoloured lights – the TFF Summit brought together food startups, researchers and investors for three days of workshops, networking and discussion on how to improve global food security.

Launched by Swiss agricultural giant Syngenta in 2011, Thought for Food is now led by Christine Gould, who is also Syngenta’s Head of Next Generation Engagement, and has partnerships with entrepreneurial network Sandbox and Ashoka Changemakers.

The five finalists, who were selected from a pool of over 100 applicant teams across 27 countries, pitched their ideas to a panel of judges including marketing expert Porter Gale and cofounder of natural cosmetics brand Yes To Ido Leffler.

Henlight – a light to stimulate laying

Founded by three American university students, Henlight is a small LED light that stimulates chickens to lay more eggs during the fall and winter months when there is less daylight. According to the team, chickens need approximately 12 hours of daylight for more than 15 days before they begin producing eggs.

With Henlight, the team hopes to extend chickens’ perceived length of day and help small-scale farmers increase egg production year-round, and, in turn, help to increase the amount of food provided to a family. The plan is to first test out the product in the US and eventually roll out in emerging markets, where the light can be used to create more food and develop entrepreneurial activities surrounding poultry farming.

“Food-producing skyscrapers”

The runner-up team – Agrilution – walked away with $5000 for their project, which involved making vertical farming (“imagine greenhouses stacked on top of each other and connected as a recycling system” or “food-producing skyscrapers”) more accessible and affordable. The team has built a prototype of a closet-sized vertical farming system that allows users to produce high yields of fresh food locally and year-round. The team also hopes to launch an online platform for people to invent and share their own plant recipes to strengthen the vertical farming community.

Image credit: Frederik Jaeger

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