Six teams of students from UDS and Tamale Polytechnic have been selected to go through to the final stage of the Avnash Agric Technology Hackathon, in which they receive funding to build a working prototype of their innovation for the rice supply chain.
The hackathon is being sponsored by Avnash, Ghana’s foremost agribusiness company, and run jointly with Kumasi Hive, Ghana’s first hardware-focused innovation hub. The aim is to generate innovative ideas to enable the scale-up of rice production in Northern region and make Ghana more self-sufficient in this crop, as well as to develop the practical skills of the students and introduce them to the opportunities in the agric sector. According to Avnash, this initiative is in line with its core values of creating more employment opportunities, and helping the evolution of the industrial sector.
The competition started in December when Avnash opened the doors of their 500 MT per day rice mills – the largest in Africa – to more than one hundred students from both institutions. The students also went on field visits to some of the 29,000 rice farmers supplying Avnash, and other stages of the supply chain. Following training in Design Thinking, the participants formed teams and started to work on solutions to particular challenges that interested them. Two rounds of pitching have now narrowed down the field of innovations to the final six who each receive funding from Avnash to build a working prototype to demonstrate their idea.
The six selected ideas are:
- pneumatic pump to collect rice husks from the factory floor for use in biofuel
- drone with software to distinguish between healthy and diseased rice plants
- smart watch for factory workers to easily and securely communicate on site
- An on-demand farm machinery sharing platform for managing farm machinery that Avnash makes available to small-scale farmers to improve their productivity
- A smart flood control system to prevent flooding of farms so that rice farmers are able to plant sooner
- An information-ready website to encourage youth in to agric as a career
Avnash CEO Jai Mirchandani said, “A sustainable future for our investments depends on an inclusive approach with the communities in which we operate. Today’s youth have demonstrated immense potential, creativity, and zeal, across the world; we must support their ambitions here in the North and for a critical sector such as agriculture. Poverty alleviation is at our doorsteps when we bring contextual solutions alive.”
Kumasi Hive CEO Jorge Appiah said “We are very pleased to work with such a forward thinking company as Avnash, ready to invest in the innovativeness of our youth. We run many hackathons but we have been very impressed by the creativity of the students taking part in this one”
As participant Elizabeth Apuseyine, from Upper East, studying Agric Tech at UDS, put it “if you have a doctor in your house and you feel sick, do you first go to the hospital? Our youth right here in Ghana can solve the challenges we have in the agric sector” This hackathon serves to prove that given the opportunity, the youth of Ghana indeed can impact the productivity of the agric sector on which so many of our people depend.
The students are from a range of engineering subjects as well as agribusiness, computer science, food processing technology, and ICT courses. Along with the enthusiasm of the participants, this wide range of disciplines has contributed significantly to the success of the program with many inter-disciplinary solutions being developed.
The six selected teams now receive funding to build their prototype, mentoring from an expert in a relevant field, and technical and logistics support from the project team as they go through an intense month of prototyping. They will then present their prototypes at a final pitch event where the overall winner and runners-up will be selected. Avnash and Kumasi Hive are already looking at ways to continue supporting some of these young innovators if they decide to turn their innovative ideas into start-up businesses.
The final presentation of the competition, in which the winner will be selected, will be held on 24th March 2017. Members of the press are invited.