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IRRI-supported Rice Corp wins the prestigious Hult Prize

September 16, New York, USA -- Rice Corp in partnership with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), was awarded the 2018 Hult Prize by former President Bill Clinton on Saturday, September 15 in New York City.

The student entrepreneur team from University College London beat out more than 100,000 college and university students from 121 countries to win the $1 million prize.

“We couldn’t be happier,” IRRI Deputy Director General for Research Dr. Jacqueline Hughes said when she heard the news. “Rice Corp’s mission is aligned with our own mission of ensuring food and nutrition security in Southeast Asia. We believe this social enterprise will further empower smallholder farmers and agri-preneurs.”

The prestigious award is given out every year by the Hult Prize Foundation. The competition is one of the biggest in the world for launching social enterprises that actively solve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

This year’s Hult Prize challenge focused on the UN SDGs 7, 8 and 9 (Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, and Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure respectively). It was opened to for-good, for-profit startups that were challenged to develop sustainable, scalable social enterprises that harness the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people by 2025.

Dr. Hughes said, “Agriculture in Myanmar is labor-intensive. Most agricultural activities are carried out manually with very little mechanization, resulting in low productivity and equally low wages and profits for farmers. Rice Corp’s social enterprise model will result in increased financial benefit for smallholder farmers, particularly women farmers.”

Rice Corp, proposed to deliver better sustainable drying technology to reduce rice loss while increasing farmer income. Together with IRRI, they plan to bridge the gap between off-the-shelf rice drying technology and rice farmers that cannot afford the technology in Myanmar. Access to this leading edge drying technology reduce rice wastage and provides farmers in approximately 100 villages with better profitability for their crops.

Through the Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia with Reduced Environmental Footprints (CORIGAP) project and IRRI’s partnerships within the Myanmar rice sector--including the Myanmar Rice Federation and the Myanmar Rice and Paddy Traders Association--Rice Corp will identify and work with partner farmers to help them build a dryer. The social enterprise will then pay these farmers a percentage service fee based on the quantity of rice dried.

“Rice Corp’s vision is to empower rice farmers in Myanmar by increasing the value of their harvest and selling their rice at the right time for the best prices.” said Lincoln Lee, Rice Corp CEO. “Aside from leveraging pre-existing connections in the country, the valuable advice of our colleagues in IRRI will ensure that we reach out to the right channels in order to achieve our goal of reaching 10 million people by 2025.”