Liberian Students to Compete for ‘Hult Prize’ In Boston, USA

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The AgriWatts Team and the judges.

– But call for national assistance

A team comprising of four students from the University of Liberia have emerged as one of the quarter-finalists that will partake in the “Hult Prize” Regional Competitions early March in Boston, Massachusetts, America.

The student representing AgriWatts’ qualification came after emerging first winner of a campus based event organized by the “Hult Prize-UL” (University of Liberia) in December 2017.

According to Hult Prize Liberia Director Swaliho Fofana, the AgriWatts Team emerged as first winner of the eleven teams that participated in the campus event because the team met the standard requirement of the judges.

Fofana added that the judges were looking out for a team’s business idea that aligns with the Hult Prize’s global theme (Harnessing the Power of Energy to Transform Ten Million Lives). Moreover, he said the panel of judges were looking out for other business components that included business strategy, competitor advantages, and financial projection of each team.

“The judges were looking at teams that had an alignment with the prize’s global theme, ‘Harnessing the Power of Energy to Transform Ten Million Lives.’ Another aspect was the team’s business strategy: how do you intend to make money? how will your business idea help the Liberian economy? Next was the team’s competitive advantage, and the judges were looking at the teams’ financial projections. In the minds of the judges, AgriWatts emerged first because the team’s presentation was unique. Whatever the team projected there was a pictorial of their idea, they won the admiration of the judges,” said Fofana.

Additionally, Fofana disclosed that application requirements were not only restricted to undergraduate students of the university.

“Every team to apply must have four members maximum; members can come from any college, including students who are on their master’s programs. Also, students comprising of a team must have a business plan; however, application was open to only students of the University of Liberia because the university is the only registered member of the Hult Prize in Liberia. As time goes by, other colleges and universities in Liberia can apply and be a member and then run their own program,” said Fofana.

He concluded that the AgriWatts team will travel to Boston, USA to convince another group of panelists about their business idea.

Every year, the “Hult Prize” topic is widely broadcast through unparalleled networks to university students in more than 100 countries, the prize website www.hultprize.org highlighted.

The winner of this year’s Hult Prize is expected to walk away with US$1,000,000.

The Winner’s Challenges

The AgriWatts team, which emerged winner of the Hult Prize Campus Event in December 2017, is expected to travel to Boston, Massachusetts, America to represent Liberia and the University of Liberia.

However, the team’s preparation is severely challenged by limited finances.

Accommodation, visas, air-tickets are some of the needs that the students disclosed to this paper in a recent interview.

For this reason they are appealing for help from the public and private sectors and well-meaning Liberians to get a chance to participate in the finals in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

The Team and their Idea

The AgriWatts Project is undertaken by four students from the University of Liberia and it is a “for-profit” business model that aims to mitigate post-harvest losses through the usage of solar energy devices.

Students undertaking the project include; Janneh V. Dukuly (Engineering College), Fayia Hassan Kendor(T. J.R. Faulkner College of Science and Technology), Waylee C. Chero ( A. Romeo Horton College of Business and Public Administration)  and B. Theophilus Mambu (Engineering College)

In a recent interview with this paper, AgriWatt group noted that the usage of solar energy devices to address post-harvest losses would be the most effective means of preserving food all year round for consumption purposes.

“During our research, we found out that Liberia loss up to five million a year, as a result of post-harvest issues. Also the coordination of farm to market is poor and this lead to 40% to 50% loss in farm produce. This issue has led to food insecurity and our solution is to target the farm to market distributing by providing proper storage that will make food available all year round,” said Janneh V. Dukuly, AgriWatts’ member.

AgriWatt founding members added that the availability of solar storage facilities across the country would impact the health of consumers, income of farmers and help reduce government spending on post-harvest losses situations, as fresh produce would be timely delivery to market at all times.

Furthermore, Fayia Hassan Kendor who is also a member of AgriWatt said that the “for-profit” business model projects intends to benefit ten thousand farmers during the project first phase.

He added that the categories of farmers AgriWatts could work with include; vegetable, rice, plantain and cassava farmers.

The team could move on to the “Hult Prize” grand final in New York, America if they emerge as one of the winners from the “Prize” regional competition in Boston.

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