QJScience: Canadian team takes top prize for anti-hunger initiative

A team of four MBA students from McGill University have recently won an international prize for their unique proposal on using bugs as a way to eliminate world hunger.

The Hult Prize Foundation runs an annual contest open to college and university students to develop ideas for organizations to tackle social or environmental problems. This year’s challenge of working towards the eradication of world hunger was Bill Clinton’s idea. The $1 million prize is to be used to implement the winning team’s proposal.

10,000 people entered the contest with only six teams making it to the last round of the competition, where McGill was crowned champion.

The McGill students’ initial proposal was to provide hungry people in third world countries with kits allowing them to grow bugs in their own backyard year-round. The type of bug would be based on local culinary preferences.

However, upon further research, they deemed this idea unfeasible for a few reasons. First, a lack of appropriate infrastructure in a lot of the target countries would pose a major problem. Second, many people in these countries seem to be moving away from farming because they believe urbanization is the way of the future.

Due to these limitations, they revised their proposal. Only rural and peri-urban farmers will be provided kits to grow the bugs. The McGill team will then purchase the yield back from the farmers, process the bugs, and sell them back to local distributors for them to be sold in impoverished areas.

The team is also coming up with bug-based products, such as flour containing ground-up crickets.

There are several reasons why the team believes bugs are the way to go. They require less water, feed and land than traditional livestock and they’re high in protein and already accepted as a food source in many third world countries. Finally, they’re seen as a sustainable option. A recent UN report says that bugs may be one of the most sustainable food sources in the world. The winning McGill team is off to Mexico to begin implementing the project. They hope to reach over twenty million people by 2018.

In my opinion, this project is a step in the right direction for solving the world hunger epidemic. People might be sceptical because the idea appears abnormal, but it’s 2013 and we’re still battling the issue of hunger. Perhaps what we need is a completely out-of-the-box idea for the world to see a change.

However, I think it’s important that people in these countries are properly taught how to maintain the bug farms and how to make these bug-infused products themselves. In the past, we’ve seen first world countries simply throw ideas and supplies at third world countries without properly teaching them how to carry out projects on their own. This prevents these projects from becoming permanent and sustainable, deeply limiting their value.

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