Fargreen, a social enterprise using technology to convert rice straw waste into a product that can be used for mushroom farming, edged out five other finalist teams to win the grand prize of $12,500 at the University of Washington’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition, held last week in Seattle.
The grand prize, sponsored by Microsoft and the Seattle International Foundation, was presented by James Rooney, Senior Manager at Microsoft’s Technology for Good program. Rooney credited Fargreen co-founders Trang Tran and Tanmay Milind Telang, both MBA students at Colorado State University, with “combining a great idea with a solid business plan.”
The business model presented by Tran and Telang would reduce greenhouse gases produced by the burning of rice straw waste – 20 million tons annually according to the team – and create an opportunity for farmers to diversify their crop yields and gain additional income by growing and selling mushrooms.
“We plan to use the prize money to build our first mushroom facilities for ten farmers who already signed up to be in our network,” said Tran. “The construction and production will happen this summer.”
Fargreen was one of 20 teams selected from a pool of 160 submissions to attend the 10th year of the competition hosted by the Global Business Center at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. Since its inception, students from 63 countries have submitted proposals for sustainable business solutions to problems of poverty.
The second place team, Bhitti, was made up of students from the University of Dhaka. Bhitti utilizes sugarcane bagasse, an agricultural by-product, to manufacture environmentally friendly, affordable and sustainable materials for construction.
Winners of this year’s $10,000 Global Health Prize, presented by the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health, was AYUDA Ready-to-Eat Food Bar, a team from Ateneo de Manila University producing a nutrition-dense food bar intended for victims of natural disasters.