Insect-eating scheme wins $1m social entrepreneur award
A plan to capitalise on the fact that a billion people worldwide already eat high-protein grubs and grasshoppers as part of their daily diet has won a prestigious $1m award.
The plan to popularize and transform insect-farming in the slums of Africa and Asia was last night awarded the $1m dollar Hult Prize for social entrepreneurs, at a ceremony hosted by former US President Bill Clinton.
The scheme by a group of MBA students from Canada’s McGill business school aims to capitalise on the fact that a billion people worldwide already eat high-protein grubs, grasshoppers and weevils as part of their daily diet.
“This is really serious,” said Mr Clinton, congratulating the winning team, “If I said to somebody 60 days ago I’m going to give this prize this year to someone who wants to process and sell edible insects - to empower rather than devour – they’d have laughed.”
Mr Clinton, a strict vegan, said he might even seek an exemption to taste one of the Aspire team’s “lime cricket chips”, the most exotic of a product range that also includes insect-fortified flour that can cut nutritional deficiencies among poor communities.
The team’s business plan includes plans to distribute “micro-livestock” growing kits that will allow slum-dwellers to grow insects in sanitary conditions all-year round, when currently many insects – for example crickets in Mexico – are only available for two or three months in the year.
The Aspire was chosen by a panel of judges that included Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer who founded the Grameen Bank, winning the 2006 Nobel Peace prize.
Afterwards, the team said winning the prize had provided an “incredible validation” of an idea that their business plan promises will impact 21 million people over the next five years.
The team won the challenge set by Mr Clinton a year ago to come up with solutions to solving the “global food crisis” that sees one quarter of all children going hungry, but a third of all food production going to waste.
The six finalists included a team from the London School of Economics, whose own idea “Sokotext” managed to cut food prices in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya by 20pc, enabling many children to experience eating an apple for the first time.
Although Aspire scooped the $1m top prize, organisers said they hoped that others would come forward and offer assistance or seed-corn investment to the remaining five finalists, all of whom conducted successful trials of their ideas.
These included idiot-proof paper strips for growing seeds and several different ways to use information technology to tighten supply chains and increase the poor’s buying power.
Jonah Brotman, the 28-year-old leader of the LSE team, said he was naturally disappointed not to have won the top prize, but were very optimistic about the future after their slick presentation was singled out for praise.
“I think we came in second, judging by the feedback from the judges, and we’ll definitely be looking for investment from the Clinton Global Initiative delagates. Sokotext is not going away,” he told The Daily Telegraph.