The Food Lab at UT, a catalyst for experimentation and innovation in the food system, announced the top 21 finalists for its inaugural Food Challenge Prize. More than 120 registrants entered the early-stage business startup competition encouraging innovation within four categories of the global food system: Healthy Eating; Inputs and Production; Processing, Packaging and Safety; and Storage and Distribution. 


A team of judges from the Food Lab’s advisory committee selected the finalists who are now being paired with industry mentors in preparation for the Food Challenge Showcase on February 14, 2015. On Showcase Day, a winner in each category will receive $5,000; a grand prize winner will be awarded $10,000.

The finalists cover a wide range of concepts and businesses from mobile apps to food safety testing. Examples include Hopper Foods from Austin, Texas, a startup that wants to create great tasting, nutritious insect-based food products. Sereneti Kitchen from Atlanta is building a robotic arm to automate household food preparation. Sproot from Somerville, Mass., prepares and delivers fresh lunches daily to schools, runs children’s cooking classes, and educates parents and school communities about healthy food. Revive Foods from San Francisco is competing with a social enterprise that produces healthy food products from surplus fruits or vegetables that would otherwise go to waste.

“It’s exciting to see such a creative and diverse group enter our first competition,” said Dr. Robyn Metcalfe, founder and director of the Food Lab at UT. “The finalists also represent a wide range of business backgrounds, from students to serial entrepreneurs with a number of successes under their belts. We look forward to the next few months when our mentors will join the finalists to prepare for Showcase Day in February.

Along with Metcalfe, advisors on the finalist selection team included Carol Thompson, founder of The Thompson Group, Shawna Butler, executive producer of TEDxAustin, Shari Wynne, founder and CEO of Incubation Station, Manuel Rosso, founder of Food on The Table and Ben Dyer, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Cockrell School of Engineeringat UT – Austin.

Showcase Day for the Food Lab Challenge will take place February 14, 2015, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the Norman Hackerman Building on the University of Texas campus. The event is open to the public and free of charge. The 21 finalists:

1. Aspire Food Group US (formerly World Ento)
2. Tastebud
3. BeeHex, Inc. (SMRC Spin-off Company)
4. BioPod
5. CitySprout
6. Clever Carrot Catering
7. Cramen
8. EdiBags
9. "Go Fresh!" Products
10. GoodBot
11. Hopper Foods, LLC
12. PHW Green Food Lab, LLC
13. Prodrax, LLC
14. Revive Foods
15. Safelain
16. Sereneti Kitchen
17. Sproot
18. StitZii
19. Stretch Recipes, Inc.
20. Ten Acre Organics
21. WashCutPrep