On World Food Day 2019, Thought For Food is launching its 2019 Challenge and Digital Labs to help young leaders address the challenge of feeding 10 billion people sustainably. TFF’s Challenge occurs annually, and this year TFF is unveiling its Digital Labs, a digital accelerator and collaboration platform for food and agriculture.
The TFF Challenge focuses on creating and accelerating food and agriculture startups. Participants have access to mentorship, can access to the TFF community, may be selected to attend its Academy and Summit, and can utilize the Digital Labs.
The Digital Labs offers an online curriculum comprised of five different labs: Knowledge, Entrepreneurship, Personal Growth, Inspiration, and Extracurriculars. Within the labs, entrepreneurs can access a plethora of expert-designed learning modules like “Bootstrapping Biotechnology,” “Regenerative Agroforestry,” and “How to Pitch.” In addition to TFF’s online presence, Gould says that TFF’s “boots on the ground” include 13 Regional Coordinators in 7 regions and a large international cohort of ambassadors.
TFF designed Digital Labs for the needs of entrepreneurs in a digitized society. TFF CEO and founder Christine Gould emphasizes the rapidly changing nature of entrepreneurship and innovation, especially among GenZs and Millennials. For example, Gould explains that numerous TFF teams are global and “work across time zones on a shared goal.” According to Gould, developing strong soft skills is more important than ever to succeed in high-tech, cross-cultural industries like food and agriculture—which is why the Digital Labs offers modules that focus on leadership and networking.
TFF is building the Digital Labs to address the largest challenges young entrepreneurs face such as access to investment and mentorship. Often, these innovators are unable to participate in traditional accelerators that require them to travel long distances or take extended periods of time off of school or work. TFF focuses on including and empowering entrepreneurs from emerging economies. Gould points out that about 90 percent of youth are living in developing countries and that emerging economies will add more than 40 percent of today’s world population to the middle class by 2050.
Promoting collaboration drives TFF’s decisions. Gould says, “for young people, it’s naturally how they operate, we just give them space to actually do it.” Through the Digital Labs, TFF connects entrepreneurs facing similar challenges on different continents. Startups in TFF’s network are often inspired to give back as mentors or to create content for the Digital Labs.
Gould created the Digital Labs to give people who are passionate about improving the food system the tools and skills to implement their solutions. Following TFF’s 2018 Academy and Summit in Rio, Brazil, Gould wondered how to expand the summit’s skill-building seminars, expert-led classes, and solution-finding discussions to young people around the world. “What would the world look like if every young person on the planet could have access to this community and these resources?” says Gould. This question guides the Digital Lab’s vision.