Members of the Sustainability Ambassadors, part of Youth 4 Sustainability, one of Masdar’s strategic initiatives, have placed first in the CovHack Innovation Challenge, a virtual hackathon engaging young people in finding viable solutions for food security post-COVID-19.
The hackathon, held over nearly three months, challenged participants to come up with innovative ways to build a resilient local and global food supply chain, exploring how we can shift to a circular economy. The theme of circular economy for food corresponds with the UN's Sustainable Development Goal 12, Responsible Consumption & Production.
The challenge began in May with a month-long call for idea submissions from entrepreneurs, SMEs, innovators, young professionals and tech talents. Following the first phase, 40 solutions were shortlisted and teams were able to use I4G’s mentor network to further flesh out their solutions.
The phases culminated into the final phase, Demo Day, where the shortlisted teams presented their solutions to a panel of judges.
Coming in at first place in the teams’ category, Palm Co, made up of Sustainability Ambassadors, Erin John, Alice Ahmad, Shahad Al Saqqaf, Ayesha Batoun and Samira Karrar, were one of 32 shortlisted teams from a total of 339 applications.
The team’s winning solution was developing sustainable, affordable, and compostable food packaging using palm fibers as the main component.
"The CovHack was truly an unbelievable experience. It taught me that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to, if you work hard to make it happen. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to participate and win with the best team ever,” said Erin John.
The next step for the winners is to take their solution even further through incubation, mentorship and acceleration by esteemed partners including the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, the Khalifa Fun for Enterprise Development and Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park.
Other partners that made the event possible include: Masdar, UN75, the Catalyst (A Masdar-BP Initiative), STRATECIS, Wageningen University, and StartLife.
The Sustainability Ambassadors is a year-long structured training program for high-school students with a vested interest in sustainability, engaging them with training, events and networking opportunities.
The program is now welcoming applications from high school students to take part in core knowledge & skills training, authentic work experience, and quality networking at major events during the academic year. Interested students can apply here. The deadline to apply is July 31.