This is a brief summary on the conceptualization and execution of Foodathon , a kind of virtual hackathon to solve issues related to food security and hunger. The event which started as an idea by BITS Ladder has been backed by 34 partners, 30 mentors and many more supporters.
The Foodathon was a three days’ event with multiple fast paced and learning sessions throughout. On the first day, Dr Marie Brueser from Thought for Food conducted readiness session with the finalist teams to prepare them by providing wider perspective on food security and role of entrepreneurs in sustainable agri ecosystem. On second half, she also moderated a session with agri entrepreneurs from GrowCab (UK) and GeoPotato (Bangladesh). The guests of the sessions were Ms. Marcel and Mr. Oscar from GrowCab and Mr. Kazi and Mr. Jaki from GeoPotato. This session helped the participants to understand the complexity of this business and not to limit themselves in linear direction instead exercise to connect the dots. The second day started with an opening ceremony through welcome remarks from Kumod Shah and the session was moderated by Sadikshya Karki. Guests like Mr. Bhusan Tuladhar, Ms. Sunita Nhemaphuki, Ms. Christine Gould, Mr. Aand Bagariaspoke on different topics related to importance of mentorship, collaboration, innovation, multi dimensional form of leadership, sustainability and food security. After this, each finalist team got 3 minutes slot to pitch the “problem statement” that they wanted to solve. The opening session ended with special remarks by Honorable Ganesh Shah, Former Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, and closing remarks from Shailendra Jha. After this the program had a closed session focussing primarily on mentorship and knowledge exchange. The day was carried out with mentors supporting each teams on how they can improve and enhance the ideas that they were working on. During this, 13 parallel virtual sessions and 39 total sessions were conducted within the span of four hours. Each team had 3 mentors for one hour each.
Some important highlights of the first day event were mentors and guest speakers sharing their own experiences with the participants, like why is it necessary for youth to take responsibility to solve existing problems or if we are looking at the solution, it’s around us even if it means managing a simple food waste that comes out from our kitchen every single day. They also focussed on mindfulness that one needs to have when it comes to carrying out the certain type of project, the ability to accept that sometimes the idea that one is working on might need some changes for it to work in more functional way. The mentoring session helped the the finalist team to internalize the need of blending their idea with multiple aspects like sustainable finance, business model, team dynamics, lean management, sustainability and impact and many more technical, management and legal aspects.
The second day started with the closed session where the young entrepreneurs lead the session to support the participants in deepening the understanding of multiple aspects of agro entrepreneurship and food security reflecting their experiences and theoretical fundamentals. Mr. Saugat Tiwari and Bibek Dhital from Mr. Butcher and Hasera respectively lead the session. The session was helpful for them to channelize the learning from the previous day mentoring and learning sessions as well. Post the session, team were given couple of hours for final preparation. Later in the evening, Grand finale of approximately 5 hours started with the jury panelist Mr. Ranjit Acharya, Mr. Anand Bagaria, Dr. Marie Brueser, Prof. Dr. Durga Devkota,, Mr. Bhushan Tuladhar sharing their insights. The highlights of the sharing by valuable guests and jury members were that everychallenge brings opportunity and such opportunity can only be seen if we have positive attitude. In the current scenario, the food crisis that we are facing as a challenge has brought us a huge opportunity of coming together and trying to solve the crisis through ideas that are innovative and sustainable. Similarly, it has also taught us why it is important to be self- sufficient, why each of us need to learn to grow our own crops even if we don’t have lands, through creative ways. We just need to believe on the power that one small idea carries and need to have the passion to carry it further. If we really want to make it happen, we can definitely make it happen. It was also shared that globally we have more or less sufficient agriculture products produced to feed the world but the problem lies in the wastage, nutrition management, distribution and the storage of the food. So it is necessary to bring efficiency and productivity in every unit of the land. And lastly, with the touch of metaphor as to how the sustainability can be understood through a humble example of a bicycle FIETS, F- Financial, I- institutional, E- Environmental , T- Technical and S for S- Social sustainability. So, like bicycles one needs to keep moving forward otherwise they will fall. After these wonderful remarks by guests, 13 finalist teams (out of 50 registered teams) presented their ideas where , ‘Taza Agro’ won the heart of the jury and became the winner of the hackathon. They were able to address the need gap of the community and were able to place the product accordingly which helped in bringing changes in the socio-economic aspect of the individual of the community. It also helped community to be economically sustainable which drastically reduced studentsdropping out of the class for income generating activities. With the main objective that the supply of the fresh food should be carried out at the local level enabling community entrepreneurship for sustainable solution. Other theme winners were Hariyo Kaushi, Youth Farmer, Prithak, Skillathon. During the evaluation of the ideas by the prominent jury member, parallel session was led by Mr. Suhrid Chapagain who further added his insights on the topic and engaged the participants in two way learning and sharing process. The entire event was moderated by Nanshu Pokharel and Shailendra Jha, representative from the organizing team.It was a nerve wracking three days event for our team. We would like to acknowledge everyone who has been a crucial part of this event in making it successful and grand.
In our eyes all those lovely participating teams are the winner because they were passionate enough to believe in the power and potential of that one idea just like we believed in Foodathon. Most importantly, they believe to engage in bringing out solutions in the time of uncertainty. The three days’ event was all about exploring the possibility of sustainability through innovative ideas that each and every participant had about solving the food crisis.
The Foodathon was not limited to finding one winning idea rather we wanted to groom emerging entrepreneurs so that they can realize their ideas into action in the near future. Hence, post event the winning team and the theme winners will be supported by mentoring partners for six months while each participating team will be provided with 12-18 hours session on entrepreneurship and innovation to harness their skills and deep their theoretical fundamentals.
We conducted the survey with all the finalist team members to learn about their feedback on the experiences of Foodathon. After, understanding learning needs of participants we design the four episodes learning session on "Entrepreneurship and Innovation" August 8, 9 & 16. The objective of the session was to harness the knowledge and skills as well as shape the proper mindset of the youth interested in entrepreneurship. This session was helpful not only to empower the participants but also motivated them to invest relentlessly in the process of establishing themselves as future innovators and entrepreneurs.