By Nii Addy
At the 2018 Social Innovation Challenge (SIC) held in Toronto on July 12, 2018, McGill team NutriPulse was adjudged the third place winner among eight finalists, with a $10,000 cash prize.
Organized by World Vision Canada’s Impact Investing arm, the SIC is an entrepreneurship competition for students and recent graduates of Canadian universities, dedicated to tackling some of the world’s most difficult challenges with innovative market-based social enterprise solutions. The 2018 competition took on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture worldwide.
World Vision Canada partnered with McGill and other Canadian universities to provide entrepreneurship training and related support to students participating in the 2018 SIC. At McGill, training and support were provided through resources like the McGill Centre for the Convergence of Health and Economics and the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship; events like the Food Convergent Innovation Forum; as well as courses, such as in the Desautels Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES). Among projects submitted by students across Canada, eight teams were shortlisted for the SIC finals, including three projects with McGill students:
NutriPulse is a business initiative to combat food and nutrition insecurity among children in peri-urban and rural communities of Ghana. Sourcing from smallholder women farmers, NutriPulse processes and supplies affordable, ready-to-cook and nutrient-dense sprouted legumes to community schools, through Ghana's school feeding program and community market stands. NutriPulse thereby also improves the incomes of smallholder women farmers. The team includes student founders from McGill: Josephine Ampofo (CEO and Co-founder), PhD Student, Food Science and Agricultural Chemistry; Adeyemi Adegbenjo (Co-founder), PhD Student, Bio-resource Engineering; Zeyan Zhong (Co-founder), PhD Student, Food Safety; as well as collaborators from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana. The project was developed from the PhD Thesis work of Josephine Ampofo, under the supervision of Prof. Benjamin Simpson and Prof. Michael Ngadi of McGill’s Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES).
Where demand for farm fresh produce and accessibility to individual vendors are at odds, SokoMtaani leverages established mobile technology to connect local farmers and local venders. The company offers access to fresh farm produce to micro-entrepreneurs with the technology to directly pre-order food produce. The team includes three McGill students from Kenya, including two MasterCard Foundation Scholars (Asterix Hassan, Brian Kirotich, and Marvin Ambutu, respectively pursuing a BA in Economics and Political Science, BSc in Computer Science, and BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science).
Kajou is an agri-food venture that seeks to transform the cashew value chain in Côte d'Ivoire. By processing the cashew nut and fruit with local cooperatives, Kajou aims to offer a socially sourced product to key markets while providing sustainable opportunities to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. The team includes two Desautels MBA students/alumni (Ismael Fanny from Côte d'Ivoire and Santiago Monroy from Colombia), a FAES PhD student (Ella Ellis, a Queen Elizabeth Scholar from Ghana), an undergraduate International Development Studies (IDS) student (Sara Al Sharif from Bahrain), and MBA student/Transformational Senior Product Manager at Scotiabank (Thales Chainho from Brazil). The Kajou project was developed in the MBA course Strategic Management for Developing Countries taught by Professor Paola Perez-Aleman.
Social Venture Fund
The 2018 SIC finals event was held in support of World Vision’s Social Venture Fund (SVF). The SVF has been created to support Canadian entrepreneurs working in developing countries, with two levels of funding. Established companies seeking support to expand into a developing market context may apply for Acceleration Stage funding ($100 - $250K). Participants who have gone through the SIC are exclusively eligible to apply for Seed Stage funding (initial grant and investment funding of $25-50K). World Vision provides in-country support to ventures that are funded through the SVF.
For the 2018 edition of the SIC, in an approach that was trialled for the first time, there was also a public vote, in which Kajou was ranked second, although that did not come with a cash prize. Kajou, under the mentorship of Professor Paola Perez-Aleman, is also in contention for the HEC Social Business Creation (SBC) competition, having been shortlisted after two rounds of competition for the finals, to be held September 2018 in Montreal.