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November 1, 2018

Saint Joseph's College to host N.E. Food System Innovation Challenge

Courtesy / Saint Joseph's College Hayley Winslow, left, business planning analyst and MABLab! program coordinator, Tylor Dubois, class of 2020, and Nick Guiou, class of 2021, review the college's site for the Hannaford Food Venture Center while discussing potential assets in the area.

As part of the effort to contribute solutions to the challenges facing New England’s food system, Saint Joseph’s College will host the 2018 New England Food System Innovation Challenge featuring cash prizes and professional services.

The challenge is in its fourth year and is a program of the Sustainability Lab of Yarmouth. Since 2015 over 30 enterprise and college teams have participated in the challenge and 14 winners have received $35,000 in cash prizes and $15,000 in professional services. The Sustainability Lab also operates Fork Food Lab, which it took over on Oct. 1.

This year’s challenge is scheduled to begin on Friday, Nov. 9, and end on Sunday, Nov. 11.

It’s the second consecutive year that Saint Joseph’s College has invited student and professional entrepreneurs to participate in thoughtful discussions and strategic planning focused on developing the region’s food and beverage industry while meeting food security goals in sustainable ways.

College teams — which include teams from Saint Joseph’s College, Unity College, College of the Atlantic and the University of Southern Maine — will be presented with this question: “How might we create products, services, apps, or organizations that support the expansion of production, distribution, processing, and consumption of local, sustainably produced food and seafood?”

They will make their pitches to three judges on Sunday afternoon, with winners to be announced at 3:30 p.m.

Here's the challenge

Students will consider products or services that address one or more of the following:

  • Helping food producers become resilient in light of climate change
  • Applying big data to small-scale production
  • Utilizing the internet of Things (IoT) to bring efficiency to small producers and harvesters
  • Providing equal access and ability to purchase healthy food to all
  • Reducing or repurposing food waste
  • Making the food supply chain transparent to all
  • Reducing or conserving inputs – like water – in the production of healthy, sustainably produced food
  • Using drones to improve the efficiency of small, diversified farms
  • Integrating aquaponics, hydroponics, or land-based aquaculture into the food system.

In addition to the college teams, nine enterprise teams will face off in the challenge by addressing this question: How might we create new models of aggregation, distribution and new products through innovative processing that adapt to local and regional needs, utilize technology (high-tech and low-tech) and are sustainable — both financially and ecologically — while offering a fair return to the farmer or fisherman at a fair price to the buyer, and minimizing their carbon footprint?

Judges are looking for bold ideas pushed by people who want to challenge each other and the status quo, according to the Saint Joseph’s College news release. They expect solutions that move beyond farmers’ markets, CSAs, and farm-stands and that create new models that adapt to local and regional needs, utilize technology, and test creative business structures such as cooperatives, enterprising nonprofits and L3Cs.

About Saint Joseph's team

Saint Joseph’s College students Tylor Dubois, class of 2020, and Nick Guiou, Class of 2021, will pitch their idea for a design of a minimum viable product for the Hannaford Food Venture Center, which will be a small-scale food manufacturing incubator built adjacent to the Stone Barn at Sebago Lake, located directly across from Saint Joseph’s College’s campus entrance.

It is part of the college’s ambitious Institute For Local Food Systems Innovation, which is designed to support New England’s capacity to produce at least 50% of food consumed, help double the region’s food manufacturing employment over ten years, and provide critically needed workforce training through courses and certificates in hydroponics, food manufacturing, food branding and merchandising, and agri-tourism.

Dubois and Guiou are members of MABLab!, a new student entrepreneurial and innovation hub at Saint Joseph’s that connects students with Maine’s emerging economy by developing student entrepreneurial skills and their business networks. Throughout the fall semester, the pair has met with manufacturers, producers, and entrepreneurs with visits to the Fork Food Lab in Portland and Commonwealth Kitchen, a food incubator located outside of Boston.

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