Inspired by their Economics course, Social Entrepreneurship: Models for Intervention in Global Poverty, and encouraged by their teacher, Catherine Muther '69, five SLC students, Teresa Phiri '13, Jackie Assar '14, Maria Munoz '13, Jeamme Chia '13 and Sachi Shah '15 entered the prestigious Hult Prize competition, a start-up accelerator for social entrepreneurship, gaining a place in the Boston regional finals. Though their project, "Aquasol, Addressing Food Insecurity in Urban Slums," did not win, the five-student team was one of only three undergraduate teams in a field of 70. Many of the competing teams were from top MBA programs, including Harvard and the regional finalist, McGill Business School. Worldwide there were 10,000 applicants, representing 350 colleges and universities, competing in five regional finals.
The project promotes the use of aquaponics, a combination of fish culture and hydroponics to grow vegetables. It employs a shareholding business model that would empower groups of residents in poverty stricken areas to implement, manage, and master the technology so that they can benefit from the results of their investments and labor themselves, growing food for their own consumption and selling it to others. The plan also calls for the residents to teach the technology to others.
Working on the project outside of class, the students researched aquaponics systems in the US and Germany, and conducted field research at a farm about a half-hour upstate from the College. They received support in various ways from members of the College's faculty and administration. Their teacher, Cate Muther, brought not only expertise but inspiration to their work. She herself put theory to practice, having founded with personal capital the Three Guineas Fund, which creates social change by investing in economic opportunity for women and girls.
The future of the students' project includes entering other competitions, seeking to generate funds to implement aquaponics system locally.