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National Ag Innovation Contest Being Launched by UW-Madison
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 10/03/2013

A new student competition is being coordinated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison which aims to find ideas and solutions to address the challenges in 21st-century agriculture, such as food scarcity and availability, transportation and sustainability.

This week, the school is launching the program at World Dairy Expo. It's being called 'Agricultural Innovation Prize: Powered by 40 Chances,' where teams of undergraduate and graduate students across the country will have an opportunity submit proposals and business plans. Organizers say as the world's population continues to increase, so does the need for sustainable and secure food systems.

Administered by UW students through the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, 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.

"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."

Jahn says she is eager to see how a variety of fields, including mathematics, the social sciences and the health sciences, can contribute to thinking about food systems in innovative ways.

After finalists are selected, teams will be invited to the UW-Madison campus in April 2014 for the final stage of the competition to present their projects and be scored by a high-profile judging panel.

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.

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