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Ericsson Innovation Awards 2017: Working together for the future of food

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the 2017 Ericsson Innovation Awards (EIA) ceremony at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm together with the three finalist teams and about 150 representatives of a wide range of organizations in the governmental, non-governmental, business and academic sectors. Over 900 teams from more than 70 countries registered for the competition, which was ultimately won by Team SNAP from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.

The EIA is an annual competition that gives students around the world the chance to develop innovative ideas in collaboration with Ericsson experts. It’s a fantastic opportunity for Ericsson to inspire and be inspired by some of the brightest young people on the planet. The theme of this year’s awards was The future of food, addressing United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals 2 (No hunger) and 12 (Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns). The challenge was for participants to explore how Information Communication Technology (ICT) can be used to improve the way food is produced, transported, distributed and consumed.

Addressing soil degradation
SNAP’s winning solution helps keep soils healthy and productive by improving the efficiency of soil sample analytics and reducing the costs. Farmers have access to real-time data that enables them to select the most appropriate fertilizers and only use them in the areas where they are needed. This type of solution is crucial to addressing the pressing global issue of soil degradation – the decline in soil quality caused by improper use, usually for agricultural, pastoral, industrial or urban purposes. The optimization of nutrition in soil is crucial to future food security.

Ankit Alok Bagaria of Team SNAP says that the next step for the project is to reduce the device costs by more than 50 percent and also improve efficiency. “Our plan is to develop this commercially so we will be establishing a manufacturing unit as well,” he explained. “Within a year our first product should be available to farmers in India.”

The mentorship experience
According to Bagaria, the experience of working with Ericsson mentors was invaluable. “We had Mr. Srinivas Rao Nalluri and Mr. Enrico de Luca as mentors,” he said. “They accelerated our growth and pushed us to perform better. We were regularly in contact with the both of them on Skype video calls and e-mails. It’s rare to find mentors who believe in their mentees more than the mentees themselves! We are really grateful to Ericsson for creating this wonderful platform for young innovators and entrepreneurs like us.”

More solutions to address agriculture and food challenges
The two other finalists in the EIA 2017 focused on improving crop storage and minimizing transport. Second prize winner Enigma of the India Institute of Technology Delhi reduces both food waste and pesticide use through early detection of weevil infestations in rice crop storage. Third prize winner Foodgrid of Aalto University, Finland, is a social and commercial platform that minimizes the distance between farm and table by connecting consumers, urban farmers and landowners with green space.

An evening of inspiration
The Nobel Museum is the place where the Nobel laureates meet when they come to Stockholm, and it’s as if the energy and inspiration that they bring with them stays there – the atmosphere is electric with possibility. It was wonderful to experience the way that people from major corporations were mingling and sharing ideas with students, professors and representatives of non-governmental organizations, startups and government agencies. When I came home that evening I had difficulty going to sleep because I was so inspired by meeting so many intelligent and dedicated people with clever ideas about how we can work together to address global challenges of agriculture and food issues including reducing food waste.

To see some photos of the EIA finalists’ visit to Stockholm, check out Ericssoncareers on Instagram and Ericsson Innovation Awards on Facebook.

Written by Matilda Gennvi-Gustafsson

Matilda's early career was in the area of environmental and production management in the food industry. Since joining Ericsson in 1997 she has focused on sustainability, business and change management. From 2009-17 she served as a sustainability director at group level focusing on strategy, climate action and how ICT can accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). As of 2018 she works within the Internet of Things (IoT) unit, integrating business and doing good.

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