USA – MIT and global financial services provider, Rabobank have announced the top prize winners of the fifth annual Rabobank-MIT Food & Agribusiness Innovation Prize, a business plan competition for early-stage businesses developed by students hailing from universities across the United States.

The annual university-based competition invites teams to pitch innovative business plans focused on sustainable, cutting-edge products and technologies in food and agribusiness.

The competition is sponsored by Rabobank in partnership with MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Water & Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) and the MIT Food and Agriculture Club.

The two partners said that a total of eight finalist teams competed in the final pitch event on April 29, which was held virtually for the first time.

The teams applied for the competition in the fall of 2019, and finalists were selected in January and paired with mentors to sharpen their pitches.

motorCortex an autonomous robotic system for packaging produce won top honors in the competition and received prizes including a cash award of US$20,000.

motorCortex has developed a custom algorithm that enables their robot to detect the optimal pick-up points on individual pieces of fruits and vegetables in a pile and place them correctly in collection trays in a post-harvest warehouse setting.

Antithesis Foods, which makes crunchy snacks through a novel processing method for chickpeas that emphasizes both flavor and inherent health benefits emerged as the second place winner, receiving prizes including a US$10,000 cash award.

“We are always impressed by the high caliber business plan pitches the student finalists prepare,” said David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America.

“Supporting innovators and start-ups is core to nurturing the evolution of our food system, and bright, new ideas in these exceptionally challenging times are highly welcome.

“Furthermore, this annual Rabobank sponsored competition, along with our flagship innovation platform FoodBytes!, is part of our continuous effort to cultivate innovation for addressing the food and agriculture sector’s most pressing challenges in commercially viable ways,” he added.

“We were again delighted by the dedication, creativity, and achievements that students from MIT and across the country bring to challenges in the food and agriculture sectors,” said J-WAFS Director, John H. Lienhard V.

“The financial support and mentorship of Rabobank multiplies this energy and will propel many of the new products and innovations we heard about tonight.”