Two startup companies recently earned awards from the Rabobank-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize. The annual business-plan and pitch competition was developed for U.S. university students developing new products to improve the food system’s sustainability.
The developers of motorCortex earned first place for their autonomous robotic system for packaging produce. They received a cash award of $20,000. Their custom algorithm enables a robot to detect optimal pick-up points on individual pieces of fruits and vegetables. The robot also places the produce correctly in collection trays in a post-harvest warehouse setting.
Antithesis Foods earned second place in the competition. It has developed a novel processing method for chickpeas that emphasizes flavor and health benefits. The startup’s product, Grabanzos, is a chocolate-covered crunchy snack. The developers earned a $10,000 cash award.
Eight teams competed in the final pitch event Apr. 29, which was held virtually for the first time. The competition is sponsored by Rabobank in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Food and Agriculture Club. The competition is open to students from universities across the United States. Teams from 16 universities applied for the 2020 competition. Teams receive hands-on mentorship from a diverse group of subject-matter experts. They also have opportunities to work with Rabobank's network of food, agriculture and innovation professionals, clients and partners. Visit food-ag.squarespace.com/innovation-prize for more information.