Olam offers big money for top food security innovation

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The winners may also have the opportunity to work with Olam to develop the practical application of their innovation. ©iStock
The winners may also have the opportunity to work with Olam to develop the practical application of their innovation. ©iStock

Related tags Food security Nutrition Food and agriculture organization

Olam International is offering €45,000 in funding to the winner of its contest that celebrates innovation in food security.

First launched in 2014, the competition aims to address the issues arising from malnutrition and an ever increasing growth in the global population.

The aim of the prize mirrors goals set out by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which include commitments to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

According to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), one in nine people or 795 million across the world are under-nourished with poor nutrition causing nearly half of deaths in children under five. That's 3.1 million children each year. 

As well as the prize money, the initiative - conceived from a partnership between agri-business Olam International and scientific partner Agropolis Foundation - also offers support in developing the technology further.

The winners may also have the opportunity to work with Olam to develop the practical application of their innovation with the company’s network of agricultural supply chains spanning 47 products in 70 countries.

Applications are now open​ for research projects in nutrition science, plant science, soil science, agricultural sciences or other field of scientific research impacting food security.

Inaugural winner

Rice_food security
SRI-Rice production methodology increases yields by 20-50% whilst reducing farmers’ costs. ©iStock

In 2015, the first Olam International Prize for Innovation in Food Security was awarded to the System of Rice Intensification International Network and Resources Center (SRI-Rice).

SRI-Rice, based at Cornell University in New York, uses methods like alternately drying and wetting the rice field as opposed to continuous flooding. Organic matter is added to the soil along with an approach that plants very young seedlings with wider spacing.

These methods have resulted in a system that requires 80-90% fewer rice seeds, up to 50% less water and in many cases no fertiliser. 

Yields are boosted by at least 20-50% and farmers’ costs reduced by 10-20%.

“This climate-smart methodology achieves outstanding results for rice production that is surprisingly counter-intuitive,”​ said a spokesperson for Olam.

“Improving agricultural yields and quality, as well as reducing food waste and improving access to a variety of nutritious foods to rural and urban communities alike is therefore critical, especially considering population growth is set to increase by over a billion by 2030.”

Sunny Verghese, Olam co-founder and group CEO, said despite being a global agri-business it did not have all the answers to this burgeoning food security challenge. 

“But there are research teams across the world who are uncovering new insights and techniques every day. Through this prize we hope to support and scale-up a breakthrough innovation that will ultimately prevent people going to bed hungry without depleting our natural resources,” ​Verghese said. 

Olam International is an agriculture-based business headquartered in Singapore. The organisation supplies food and industrial raw materials to over 70 countries that includes cocoa, coffee, cashew, rice and cotton.

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