A Look at Award-Winning Innovation on Display at IFT FIRST

white and blue ceramic bowl

CHICAGO – The Seeding the Future Van Lengerich Foundation and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) have awarded grants of more than $1 million to 14 organizations and entrepreneurs who are developing food systems and products that can produce nutritious food that’s affordable.

At last week’s IFT FIRST event in Chicago, Bernard Van Lengerich, chair of the Foundation and retired chief science officer for General Mills, said, “We’re looking for programs that can respond to local needs but can scale to have global impact.”

Three grantees joined Van Lengerich and moderator Rick White, past chair of the AgriFood Network, on stage to discuss their programs.

The International Rice Research Federation was a Grand Prize Winner ($250,000). The organization developed a rice hybrid that resists the uptake of arsenic and is also resistant to drought and flooding. That’s particularly important to rice farmers and consumers in India and Bangladesh, where erosion from the Himalayas contributes to high levels of arsenic in rice, a health hazard for pregnant women and children.

Food Systems for the Future Institute and AFYA Feed Ltd. were awarded a Growth Grant ($100,000) for a Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) project in Rwanda, where most consumers and especially children don’t eat enough protein.

The BSFL are an inexpensive substitute for soy as poultry feed, which represents 80% of the cost in poultry production. Eratharin Cousin, CEO of Food Systems for the Future Institute, said, “By reducing that cost while also upping the protein content with BSFL, chicken will become much more affordable.”

INMED Partnerships for Children won a Seed Grant ($25,000). It has developed an aquaponics system in the Peruvian Amazon that produces 10 times more food than traditional agriculture. This social enterprise model can be used “from the Kalahari Desert to the Amazon Rainforest,” said Linda Pfeiffer, CEO.

Ron Tanner has been observing and reporting on the food industry for more than four decades, including 33 years with the Specialty Food Association and 10 years with Progressive Grocer Magazine.