Nov. 1, 2021

Insects as food? Students showcase innovative ideas for building a resilient food system

Affordability, cost effectiveness, and nutrition top the list in Hunter Hub Solutions Lab challenge
Erik Aquino on Unsplash

Imagine picking up and delivering a neighbour’s grocery order alongside your own or tasting your favourite brewery’s new product featuring cricket flour. These are real ideas proposed by UCalgary students at the Hunter Hub Solutions Lab: Resilient Food Systems Challenge.

A partnership between the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking and the Office of Sustainability, the challenge asked students to develop ideas that would build more resilient food systems in Alberta. In addition to being impactful and feasible with defined steps for implementation, the ideas also needed to align with some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The challenge was funded by Experience Ventures, an initiative led by the Hunter Hub that enables college and university students at nine institutions across Canada to make an impact alongside real-world innovators through paid entrepreneurial thinking placements. Students received $525 each for their participation in the challenge, and the top three teams received an additional $1,000, $500, and $250 respectively.

“We were thrilled to provide UCalgary students with this opportunity to develop and use entrepreneurial thinking skills to solve a real-world problem,” says Anica Vasic, director, talent, with the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking. “The Hunter Hub Solutions Lab series was designed to capture the growing interest and passion students have for solving key societal issues.

As seen in all the incredible proposals submitted, there are many ways to contribute to a sustainable and resilient food system, and to make an impact both locally and globally.

After five weeks of work, the winning teams and their solutions highlighted below were announced during UCalgary’s Sustainability Week (Oct. 25 to 29):

  • First place: A mass-production meal plan program called L!FE Lunches for Education that offers affordable and nutritious daily lunches for kids. This solution addresses UN Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, and 12.
    • Team members include Nicole Tan, Jennifer Shearer, Joy Wang, Micaela Francese (all undergraduate students with the Schulich School of Engineering).
  • Second place: Neighbourly, a user-friendly and cost-efficient delivery platform, where users can pick up and deliver grocery orders placed by others that are unable to shop for themselves. This solution addresses UN Sustainable Development Goals 9, 10, and 11.
    • Team members include Aaryan Sharma, Muhammad Saud Gaziani, Brennan O'Yeung, Connor Hunszinger (all undergraduate students with the Schulich School of Engineering).
  • Third place: Insects as Food Expo, an annual event of food and beverage booths that feature insects in some form, to drive exposure and public acceptance of insects as a sustainable food source. This solution addresses UN Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 3.
    • Team members include Sukriti Sharma, Larissa Tse, (undergraduate students with the Schulich School of Engineering); Joel Thiele, Matias Totz, (undergraduate students with the Haskayne School of Business); Bhavika Gupta (undergraduate student with the Faculty of Science).

The winners were selected by a panel of judges that included UCalgary alumni and staff, and entrepreneurs with businesses and non-profit social enterprises.

“I speak for my entire team when I say the Hunter Hub Solutions Lab was a fun and interesting way to learn how the food system works in Alberta,” says participant Nicole Tan, whose team developed the L!FE Lunches for Education solution. “We were encouraged to think creatively about a problem and collaborate to find a solution. And in our case, we discovered a solution that already exists in the world and redesigned it to work for our community.”

“The Office of Sustainability has been a proud partner in offering this event and I am thrilled that the students committed the time and energy to engage in exploring the timely and important topic of resilient food systems,” says Bryanne Aylward, director of sustainability reporting and engagement.

“The Office of Sustainability is committed to creating opportunities for entrepreneurial thinking, applied practice and project-based learning in sustainability. Through their participation in the Hunter Hub Solutions Lab, students have developed leadership competencies that will equip them to become the sustainability leaders we need.”

Created with a transformative gift from the Hunter Family Foundation in 2017, the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking is UCalgary’s community innovation hub that transforms lives and economies through fostering entrepreneurial thinking in students, faculty and the community. Our mission is to create and support game-changing innovators and accelerate their ideas from conception to impact.

The Hunter Hub contributes to the University of Calgary’s strategic vision to be the most entrepreneurial university in Canada.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada's Innovative Work-Integrated Learning initiative. Learn more about Experience Ventures,