Business & Government

‘Food+City Challenge’ Awards Food Innovation

If you have an idea for a business, product or process that will change the way the world feeds itself, sign up for the Food+City Challenge Prize.
By Shelly Brenckman, Startup Aggieland October 2, 2015

map made of spices


If you have an idea for a business, product or process that will change the way the world feeds itself, sign up for the Food+City Challenge Prize, co-sponsored by Startup Aggieland and the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, with the second annual early-stage startup competition now under way.

The Food+City Challenge Prize seeks to identify ideas that uncover lasting ways to improve logistics and feed cities around the world.

Building upon last year’s success, Food+City sponsors are increasing cash awards from a total of $30,000 to $50,000 in 2016. Submissions are accepted through Oct.15 and are open to everyone at local, national and international levels. Last year, startups from Massachusetts to California–students and faculty, established entrepreneurs and industry professionals–entered the Food+City Challenge Prize competition.

This year, organizers expect an even more diverse group of entries — including entries from nearly 44 students residing in what is fondly called “The Dormcubator,” the first state university startup dorm. Located in Hullabaloo Hall at Texas A&M, Startup Aggieland’s freshmen and sophomores in Startup Living Learning Community heard from Elsa Murano, director of the Borlaug Institute, on the importance of finding collaborative and innovative solutions to such global Grand Challenges as food and water shortages. This is what the Food+City Challenge Prize strives for in forging last year’s initial partnership between Startup Aggieland, Borlaug Institute and The University of Texas Food Lab (now Food+City), say organizers. Two freshmen in the Startup LLC – Animal Sciences major McCalley Cunningham and business major Felipe Estrada – were among 20 finalists in the final competition round out of 120 entries.

“At Startup Aggieland, we encourage our students who self-identify as entrepreneurs to focus on solving real-world needs and global Great Challenges,” explained Executive Professor Don Lewis, head of Startup Aggieland and hot-off-the-heels from a 1st place win at the Southeastern Conference Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition where Professor Lewis coached the winning student entry.

“Last year’s Food+City Challenge Prize was won by Ten Acre Organics of Austin and coached by Startup Aggieland Lead Mentor Shelly Brenckman,” he added. “Just one week before the finals, TAO completed a six-figure seed round with Shelly advising them on the round. We like to win at Startup Aggieland and want to help, regardless of whether we mentor our own students in competitions or we help other Texas entrepreneurs to realize their dreams.”

Food+City seeks ideas that not only result in a great product, but also impact and improve how food supply chains function. The goal of the challenge is to encourage innovation in food production, distribution, packaging and consumption. Businesses or ideas of particular interest include the following objectives:

  • Lessen food waste
  • Increase the supply of affordable and nutritious food
  • Provide food that meets personalized health needs
  • Improve transport and distribution of food into and through urban populations globally
  • Utilize new storage materials and processes that minimize waste.

Important Dates:


Oct. 15, 2015 – Submission process ends

Nov. 1, 2015 – 20 finalists announced

Nov. 15, 2015 – Finalists paired with mentors

Feb. 5, 2016 – Bootcamp on The University of Texas at Austin campus

Feb. 6, 2016 – Showcase Day at the McComb’s Business School at the University of Texas at Austin. Winners will be announced.

“By encouraging entrepreneurs to find new solutions to problems within our food system, the Food+City Challenge encourages a cross pollination of ideas not commonly found in food startup discussions. The Food Lab at UT focused on feeding our cities; Food+City expands upon the Food Lab’s original vision and growth, engaging in diverse topics and innovations to feed cities and increase sustainability of food systems,” said Robyn Metcalfe, founder and director of Food+City. “Our food system is more urban and more global than ever before. We’re going to uncover what’s missing in our current food systems, particularly around how we feed cities around the world. We’ll do so by challenging and testing all assumptions, beliefs and technologies – that’s exactly what this challenge is designed to do.”

Finalists will be notified in early November. At that time, they will be paired with industry mentors who will guide the strengthening of business plans and the development of prototypes for 13 weeks. Winning teams will be announced following public showcase and a fast-pitch process at the Showcase Day, Feb. 6, 2016 in Austin.

For more information on Food+City and the Food+City Challenge Prize including submission details, visit

About Food+City

Food+City, a 501c3 non-profit, grew out of The Food Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, and is directed by Dr. Robyn Metcalfe in Austin. Food+City is a platform for bold exploration of the global food system; it provokes fresh perspectives on the realities of how we feed cities, inspiring and fostering action. The Food+City stories, told in many forms, will raise awareness of the opportunities for improvement in our food systems and uncover the insights that will shape how we make our world sustainable. For more information on Food+City, please visit Follow and like on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Media contact: Shelly Brenckman, Startup Aggieland.

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