The 2015 finalist teams

Drawing from their expertise and experience as entrepreneurs, industry experts, faculty, and investors, the judges for each contest reviewed dozens of applications to determine finalists. The finalists are listed below. Two teams tied to win the Challenge, and we have marked those teams with a star:

BioFarMarket will bridge the existing distribution gap between organic farmers and consumers in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond.

Coolify is a micro-cold storage solution that improves post-harvest agriculture supply chains and reduces spoilage. 

FOCUS Foods is an urban aquaponics farm that will be a self-sustaining symbiotic fish and produce system serving the local Philadelphia community. 

Icebox is a system of modular networked cold storage for healthy, sustainable food distribution. 

Waste to Feast repurposes commercial leftovers to feed homeless children and families. 

To read the Harvard Gazette story about Finalists in this and other Deans' Challenges, click here.

What is the i-Lab Deans' Food System Challenge? 

Each year the Harvard Innovation Lab (i-Lab) organizes a series of Deans’ Challenges, or University-wide competitions, that ask students from across the university to develop innovative solutions to pressing social issues. 

During the 2014-15 year, the Deans’ Food System Challenge invited creative and entrepreneurial students to develop innovative ideas to improve the health, social, and environmental outcomes of the food system, both in the United States and around the world. The Challenge was co-sponsored by Dean Martha Minow of Harvard Law School and Dean Julio Frenk of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and included four sub-topics:

(1) Producing Sustainable, Nutritious Food

(2) Innovating in Food Distribution and Markets

(3) Improving Our Diet

(4) Reducing Food Waste

In Octoberwe launched an online crowd-sourcing platform where students, faculty, and others engaged in the food system could have an open dialogue and provide feedback on Challenge contestants’ ideas.

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
— James Beard, Author

Why do we need a healthy and more sustainable food system?

Our current methods of producing, distributing, and consuming food are damaging both for human health and for the planet. Rates of diet-related disease, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are rising in both developed and developing countries, and the fertilizers, chemicals and fuel used to produce and transport food are causing devastating pollution and contributing to global climate change. Further, the food system does not meet the basic social justice goals of ensuring access to food for all or supporting fair-paying, safe jobs for those working in the agricultural or food service sector.

Thus the overall goals of this Challenge were to elicit innovative solutions to:

(1) improve health outcomes and increase access to healthy foods for communities in the U.S. and around the globe;

(2) lessen the impact of food production and distribution on the environment by promoting more sustainable farming methods and stronger local food systems; and

(3) enhance equity and economic outcomes for the many disempowered individuals harvesting, packaging, and preparing our food.