By McGill Reporter Staff

A team of MBA students from the Desautels Faculty of Management won the 2013 Hult Prize competition, following a final “pitch-off” held in New York City at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting Monday evening, Sept. 23.

The social-entrepreneurship award for students, which includes U$1 million in seed capital, was presented by former President Bill Clinton.

The five-member Desautels team was one of six teams to reach the finals, having emerged from a field of over 10,000 college and university students from around the world. This year’s challenge: to create a social enterprise that will secure food for undernourished communities, and particularly for the 200 million people who live in urban slums.

“This is our chance to empower the next generation and solve some of the world’s most pressing issues,” said Ahmad Ashkar, Founder and CEO of the Hult Prize, said in a news release last week. “Almost a billion people go hungry every day and without new solutions, food security issues are likely to get worse.”

The teams in the final round presented their pitches to a jury that included Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus and executives of the World Food Programme and the United Nations Foundation, among others.

The project proposed by the Desautels team –  composed of MBA students Mohammed Ashour, Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott – involves the production, processing and promotion of insects for human consumption. The team, called “Aspire Food Group,” aims to empower urban slum communities by offering them better access to an efficient, sustainable source of protein and nutrients.

According to a recent report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the Desautels team notes, insects are eaten seasonally by 2.5 billion people worldwide. The team’s project seeks to formalize existing informal markets and to promote innovative insect farming practices to provide year-round access to nutritious foods that include insect ingredients.

After winning the regional competition in Boston earlier in the year, members of the team traveled to Thailand, Kenya and Mexico to gain insights into slum conditions and into specific insect-consumption patterns. They also spent several weeks refining their business model and pitch at an “accelerator” program in Boston.

“This is a fantastic opportunity, and we’re really grateful to the McGill community for giving us the resources we need,” Soor, an MBA-Law student, said. “We really hope to make an impact on the world stage.”

Over the last four years, the Hult Prize has brought together over 24,000 college and university students to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. The annual initiative, described as the worlds’ largest student competition for social good, was founded by Ahmad Ashkar, a Hult International Business School alumnus. The Hult Prize has been funded by the Hult family since its inception in 2009.

The Clinton Global Initiative, an initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

To see the video of the team in Thailand, Kenya and Mexico gaining insights into slum conditions, click here.