McGill University triumphed at the Hult Prize regional finals in Boston. Their big idea gets lots of attention. Here is their story, in their words:
Our social enterprise, Aspire, learned through research during the summer that food insecurity is not an issue of lack of food. The vast majority in urban slums do not go hungry. But they lack access to affordable nutrition. Many suffer from malnourishment and nutrient deficiencies despite being overweight or obese. Therefore, the problem of food security in urban slums is not one of food being expensive per se, but of nutritious food being unavailable or overpriced compared to cheaper, less nutritious offerings.
Sustainable insect farming
Our disruptive social enterprise, Aspire, aims to improve access to edible insects worldwide. We develop and distribute affordable and sustainable insect farming technologies for countries with established histories of entomophagy, or insect-consumption. Our farming solutions stabilize the supply of edible insects year-round, drastically improving and expanding the economic ecosystem surrounding insect consumption in the regions serviced. Not only do our durable farming units create income stability for rural farmers, they have a wider social impact by lowering the price of edible insects. This is central to our mission of increasing access to highly nutritious edible insects amongst the poorest, and therefore neediest, members of society.
Insects as micronutrients
In May 2013, a groundbreaking report by the United Nations (UN) prominently promoted human consumption of edible insects as a substitute to conventional livestock . Edible insects are a rich source of protein, iron and micronutrients.
Compared to traditional livestock, insects require drastically less feed to convert the same amount of protein; they require far less farmland, and the amounts of water they consume and greenhouse gases they emit are orders of magnitude lower. Our bold, innovative and integrated idea is therefore well positioned to address multiple social, environmental, and health objectives.
We does not seek to change people’s behaviour. Rather, we wish to provide greater access to region-specific traditional foods that are healthy, packed with nutrients, and sustainable.
Editor’s note: Team Aspire became the 2012 Hult Prize winner. To see their “Big Win”, click on the link here.
image credits: Gabriel Mott, Samuel Dakay, hultprize, com
Aspire team profile: McGill University
As team captain, Mohammed Ashour brings leadership and direction to the team. In addition to having experience in global sales and marketing strategy, Mohammed can leverage his deep understanding of the medical and social implications of the global food crisis to help structure a rapidly scalable enterprise. Mohammed is currently pursuing a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degree (MD, CM) from the Faculty of Medicine, and an MBA from the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University. Prior to this, Mohammed completed a Masters in neuroscience (M.Sc.) at McGill University and a Bachelor of Life Sciences (B.Sc.) at the University of Toronto. Mohammed is an avid athlete.
Shobhita Soor: Shobhita Soor brings a legally oriented analytical approach to the team. She has completed a B.Sc. in Psychology at McGill and is currently a Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL), Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and is an MBA candidate at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management. She has work experience in developmental research, mental health and retail financial services. Her legal knowledge and her understanding of human behaviour will help the team to create a business that will comply with both legal and behavioural norms that exist in the enterprise’s potential markets. Shobhita has a passion for fashion and travel.
Jesse Pearlstein: Jesse Pearlstein, Aspire’s financial expert, has a background in capital markets and corporate finance (both sell-side and buy-side). Most recently, Jesse was a Summer Associate in the Investment & Corporate Banking group of BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, Canada where he focused on financing and M&A engagements on behalf of both domestic and international clients in the metals and mining sector. Notable transaction experience includes raising C$176mm for Detour Gold as lead-left sole bookrunner and advising Rainy River Resources on its C$310mm sale to New Gold. Jesse hopes to draw on his experience in raising capital and structuring and executing transactions in order to rapidly turn Aspire’s ambitions into economically sustainable reality. Jesse holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto and is an MBA candidate at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management in Montreal.
Zev Thompson: Technological breakthroughs empower us to address global challenges in previously unthinkable ways. Zev Thompson combined his passion for sustainability with a deep understanding for technology, launching an Internet-driven electric bicycle business and community. Zev hopes to draw on his substantial entrepreneurial experience and scientific background to address the operations of any proposed solution. Zev has a B.Sc. in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia and is an MBA candidate at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management. His outdoor hobbies include rock climbing and tennis, and his indoor hobbies include gaming.
Gabriel Mott: Gabe Mott is the operation and implementation specialist on the team. He brings with him an BSc in Neuroscience, a decade of front-line experience with NGOs and an additional four years of management experience in the private sector. He recently lead a consulting team working with a food-based urban NGO and delivered a comprehensive strategy to enter a new market. The NGO subsequently fully implemented the plan. Gabe is currently pursuing the last year of his MBA at McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, with dual concentrations in Finance and Strategy and Global Leadership. Gabe gets outdoors whenever possible and enjoys canoeing and hiking in remote locations.
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Mari Anixter is Managing Editor for Innovation Excellence. She is a communications professional living in the Boston area.