UW launches $100,000 ag innovation prize

On Oct. 3, the UW-Madison launched a competition for teams of undergraduate and graduate students across the country to submit proposals and business ideas that address challenges in 21st-century agriculture, such as food scarcity and availability, transportation and sustainability.

Called the Agricultural Innovation Prize: Powered by 40 Chances, the competition is administered by UW students through its transdisciplinary, research-drivenWisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Howard G. Buffett Foundation is funding the prize, which offers more than $200,000 of support, with the first-place proposal receiving $100,000 — the largest amount to date for an agriculturally focused student competition.

The competition is being launched in tandem with the upcoming release of the book “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” by Howard G. Buffett, co-authored with his son Howard W. Buffett, who wrote the foreword. The book documents new approaches for combating hunger and poverty in the most difficult places on Earth.

“Considering the complexity and scale of agricultural problems in the United States and around the world, I am thrilled that this program will encourage students across the country to come up with solutions they are empowered to implement,” says Howard W. Buffett, trustee of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

The Ag Prize seeks to not only spur new collaborations, but also to place emphasis on inspiring, educating and nurturing the next generation of agriculture innovators and entrepreneurs.

“It’s all about innovation — from idea to execution,” says Molly Jahn, a professor of genetics who leads efforts at UW-Madison on the student-driven prize. “This is the type of contest that spans across entire universities, not just for departments that have been historically identified as related to agriculture.”