Wilbur-Ellis Announces Student Teams Honored in "Wilbur-Ellis Innovation Award"

Published online: Dec 17, 2022 Articles
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San Francisco - Wilbur-Ellis announced the winners of the first Wilbur-Ellis Innovation Award, which invited student teams from U.S. colleges and universities to submit innovative ideas for feeding a growing world population.

The winner of the $25,000 Grand Prize is the Kansas State University Entomology Team for their submission "Insects Recycling to Feed the World." The winning submission explored using "plastic-degrading insect microbial symbionts" (bacteria) to give insects plastic degrading abilities, which would turn plastic waste into biomass for a variety of productive uses.

Four additional teams are being honored with $5,000 Honorable Mention Awards. They are:

  • CIBER Squad, representing the University of California, Riverside
  • Zumwalt Acres, representing the University of Texas at Dallas and Middlebury College
  • Team SLAPS, representing California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, the University of Washington, and the University of California, Berkeley
  • Kansas State University Grain Science Team, representing Kansas State University

The honorable mention submissions explored enhancing the honey bee population, the potential of basalt to improve soil health, an alternative way to produce meat, and expanding ocean farming. To see the names of all the winning team members and read summaries of their submissions, visit the Wilbur-Ellis Innovation Award website.

The Wilbur-Ellis Innovation Award was launched in 2021 as part of the company's 100th anniversary celebration. "Our 100th anniversary was an opportunity to celebrate our history," said John Buckley, Wilbur-Ellis President and Chief Executive Officer. "We're proud of our past, but at Wilbur-Ellis we're always looking ahead. And we wanted to engage young people in thinking about the big challenges facing the world. I can't think of a bigger challenge than sustainably feeding a growing world population."

By 2050, the global population is expected to increase by 2 billion people. "As the population expands, we'll need innovative ideas and partnerships of all kinds to feed more people," Buckley said. "As a company that partners with farmers and ranchers throughout North America, supporting innovation in agriculture is something we do every day. And as we've experienced disruptions in the food supply – intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine – we've all become very aware of the critical role agriculture and food production play in our lives."

With the Innovation Award, Wilbur-Ellis is giving young people a forum for surfacing new, out-of-the-box ideas that could have a positive impact on this critical imperative. With the success of the first Innovation Award – which engaged more than 120 students working in over 30 teams – Wilbur-Ellis will sponsor the award for a second year, launching the competition in the fall of 2022 and expanding it to include college and university students in the U.S. and most of Canada. 

"We're very happy to sponsor the Innovation Award for a second year," Buckley said. "The young people who participated in the first competition are exceptionally bright and the ideas they brought forward have real promise. We want to encourage that again with the 2023 award, because when creative minds come together, we can find new and better ways to feed a growing world."

Visit the Wilbur-Ellis Innovation Award website and view CEO John Buckley's video that introduced the Innovation Award. Also, visit the Cavallo Ventures website to learn how Wilbur-Ellis invests capital and expertise in early-stage companies developing innovative approaches to sustainable agriculture.