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Repurposing fresh food peels as chips wins AUS Hult Prize Competition 2020
The innovative business idea of turning discarded fruit and vegetable peels into chips brought Team Transcend the top prize at the recent American University of Sharjah (AUS) Hult Prize Competition 2020-2021.
The winning pitch proposed taking peels from oranges, bananas, potatoes and mangos, which would usually be thrown in the garbage bin, and turning them into chips. The process starts with boiling the peel to kill the bacteria, then drenching them with a secret blend of spices and herbs, air-frying the chips, and then packaging them for consumption.
The Hult Prize is the largest global student challenge and start-up platform for social good. Hult Business School in partnership with former US President Bill Clinton, host this innovative platform to launch catalytic social ventures aiming to solve the planet’s most pressing challenges. Student teams from around the world compete for a chance to secure USD$1,000,000 in funding to launch their start-ups.
With the motto “Food for Good: Transforming Food into a Vehicle for Change,” this year’s challenge was to build viable food enterprises that will impact the lives of 10 million people in the next decade while strengthening communities, increasing incomes, feeding the hungry and creating jobs.
Speaking about the project, Anaam Noushad, a design management major at AUS who was responsible for the design and digital marketing of the product, said that food waste is a significant global issue. “Every year, tons of fresh food and vegetables are thrown out by supermarkets either because of lack storage, or because no one bought them, so they get old and replaced with new stock. Our team proposed gathering these fruits and vegetables and extracting the peel using the process of boiling and dehydration. We even had a prototype using potato skin peel, which was successful,” Noushad explained.
The experience for the diverse four-member team was both challenging and exhilarating, requiring them to focus on issues of sustainability as well as entrepreneurship.
““Personally, I felt like I was on an episode of Shark Tank. This was my first ever business pitch. I went into Hult Prize not knowing what to expect at all, but I had an amazing team to guide me through it. Through the countless nights we spent discussing ideas and opportunities, we learned an immense amount about the startup field and pitching techniques. We figured out how we can do our part in making a change. We’re really looking forward to what's coming next,” said Gouthami Pillai, a finance and economics major who served as the analytics and budget expert of the team.
The success of the idea was due to its simplicity and easy application, said team member Manaswi Madichetty, a finance major and food blogger: “It was a roller coaster of a month: we started off believing that our idea was too simple but then realized that it was realistic and could have a positive impact if implemented. The feedback we received from the panel of judges was great. Also, we did not only learn the nuances of a business pitch, but also learned the importance of teamwork and creativity.”
The team noted that they have some of challenges to address, including changing mindsets about turning what would ordinarily be food waste into chips, and taking a further look into increasing the nutritional value of their product.
The winners of the AUS Hult Prize will qualify for the regional round of the competition, bypassing the general application process, which annually receives over 20,000 applicants from more than 350 colleges and universities in over 150 countries. The regional winner will then attend a summer business accelerator, where participants receive mentorship and strategic planning to create prototypes to launch their new social business. In the final round, one team will be selected as the winner and will be awarded the US$1,000,000 by President Bill Clinton.
“It was an exhilarating and fun experience and we’re all looking forward to the regionals.
Can't wait!” said Gulzar Basheer, an industrial engineering major and the team’s supply chain expert.