As discussed in a recent podcast, more and more large organizations are turning to startup accelerators to solve challenges in the food industry. But it’s not just major CPGs. The World Food Programme (WFP) — the largest humanitarian organization on the planet — has been working closely with startups since it launched its Innovation Accelerator in 2016, and applications are once again open.
From the WFP website:
The Global Innovation Challenge for Zero Hunger is looking for proposals that could transform the lives of smallholder farmers and small-scale livestock producers, reach a step change in food systems or increase the effectiveness of emergency response. From mobile applications to artificial intelligence, post-harvest loss prevention and new cultivation techniques, the challenge is seeking low- and high-tech solutions, business model innovations and more.
Since WFP is devoted to fighting world hunger, it follows that startups who apply to the Innovation Accelerator should be building technology solutions attempting to do the same. For example, a project called H2Grow, supported by the Accelerator, helps those living in vulnerable food communities build their own hydroponic systems to grow fresh vegetables as well as fodder for animals.
The Innovation Accelerator program happens in a few different parts. From the initial pool of applications, WFP picks 15 startups to participate in a weeklong bootcamp in Munich, Germany, which ends with a pitch night. During the bootcamp, companies fine-tune their projects according to WFP’s approach to innovation, which is all about human-centered design and lean startup methodology. The pitch night helps to connect these companies with potential investors and other mentors and supporters.
From the bootcamp and pitch night, WFP then selects a few companies to take part in its Sprint Programme. The program runs three to six months, depending on the company, and offers each startup $100,000 in equity-free funding, mentorship, and field access.
WFP estimates that 821 million people go to bed hungry each day, and the UN Security Council recently recognized publicly the link between food insecurity and armed conflict around the world. Of the 13 current major food crises, 10 are directly linked to armed conflict, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Yemen among them.
Applicants, then, should demonstrate not just things like proof of concept and financial stability, but also how their companies and products can help WFP as a whole in its mission to eradicate world hunger. You can read the full list of eligibility requirements here.
Cohort 1 is already underway. The application deadline for Cohort II is February 28, 2019. For Cohort III, set to take place in the second half of the year, the application deadline is slated for July 2019.