Student - December 3, 2018

New student challenge: how can we sustainably feed the world?

Luuk Zegers

People consume too much meat and dairy, which is bad for the climate. But how can we make human protein consumption more sustainable? This is the challenge for the participants in the new student challenge. Students can register as of 5 December.

Last year’s winning team. © Luuk Zegers

Last year, the student challenge was about sustainable urban agriculture. This year, the contest has been named the Student Innovation Contest: ReThink Protein and will focus on making human protein consumption more sustainable. This means: offer better alternatives for meat and dairy or make their production more sustainable.

‘Humanity’s diet contains a lot of animal proteins that cause relatively high amounts of emissions’, explains Jolien Verweij (25), master’s student in Biology. ‘This needs to be made more sustainable, but how? This is the question the participants will tackle in the new challenge.’ As part of team GreenWURks, Verweij won the Greenhouse Challenge earlier this year. She was asked to contribute as an expert to the organisation of the Student Innovation Contest 2019, WUR’s latest student challenge.

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Freer and more accessible
While the previous challenge attracted many master’s students, ReThink Protein should become more accessible to bachelor’s students as well. To achieve this, two categories have been introduced: ideation and prototyping. ‘Ideation is about elaborating an idea and developing a business plan. This is doable while following a bachelor’s programme. In prototyping, you take it several steps further and really create or improve your prototype and business plan. We expect mainly master’s students and PhD candidates to participate in this category, as well as student start-ups.’

The assignment of ReThink Protein is also a lot freer than that of the Greenhouse Challenge, Verweij says. ‘Instead of redesigning an existing building into an urban greenhouse, you can come up with anything you want, as long as it contributes to a more sustainable protein consumption. This can be by investigating sustainable sources of proteins, like insects or plant-based sources, or by coming up with solutions to make production processes more sustainable. But you could also come up with a revenue model for a sustainable fast-food chain, for example.’

Solo or as a team
Interested students with an idea can register by themselves or as a team between 5 December and 10 March. ‘You then proceed to further elaborate that idea with the help of coaches and partners of the Innovation Contest from the food industry or organisations that work on the protein transition’, Verweij explains. Participants must keep four criteria in mind: sustainability, social impact, technical feasibility and economic feasibility.

You can come up with anything you want, as long as it contributes to a more sustainable protein consumption.
Jolien Verweij

The Innovation Contest will kick off in March. On 27 June, the best ideas will battle in the finals. After that, the best Wageningen participants will take on the winners of the innovation contests of the universities of technology in Twente, Delft and Eindhoven during the Dutch 4TU Impact Finals.

Further information is available here.

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