SFI Food Challenge shortlist aims to find solutions to food loss and waste

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris has this week announced the 15 teams that have been shortlisted as part of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Future Innovator Prize.

The two challenge-based prize programmes, with a prize fund of €2 million each as part of the SFI Future Innovator Prize, are calling on the research teams to develop innovative solutions to food waste and plastics.

Five teams have been shortlisted under the SFI Food Challenge and 10 under the SFI Plastics Challenge. At the end of the 12-month programme, two overall winners will be announced.

The SFI Food Challenge will “support the development of sustainable solutions to reduce food loss and waste across the full breadth of the food supply chain”.

The aim is to address topics such as premature spoilage of fruit and vegetables; undernutrition and promoting healthy ageing through optimisation of diet; the shelf-life of salad leaves; valorising food waste into value added commodities; and waste in the fishing industry.

The five teams shortlisted in this category are: Eye-Q; Solarbiome; Leaf No Waste; Bluestreambio; and WAVA.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Irish households produce over 250,000t of food waste per year, at a cost of €700 per household.

In addition, wasted food is a significant contributor to climate change – responsible for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Plastics challenge

The SFI Plastics Challenge aims to support the development of innovative STEM-led solutions that will enable the sustainable use of plastics in a circular economy, restore and preserve our oceans’ health, and maximise how we use the earth’s finite resources.

The projects aim to address problems across a number of strategic challenge areas, including: removing plastics from coastal areas; reducing reliance on single use plastics in laboratories; upcycling plastic waste; and utilising plastic waste for sustainable battery technologies.