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Qatar Varsity Students Bag Award for Innovative Food Printing

Mohammad Annan and Lujain Al Mansoori, two students at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, have done their varsity proud by winning top prize in the FoodTech category of the Business Incubation and Acceleration (BIA) Hackathon 2023 hosted by Qatar Development Bank (QDB).

The duo created an idea for 3D printed vegetables as an alternative to farming, which could bolster food security in countries like Qatar where there is a scarcity of arable land. Annan and Al Mansoori used a combination of artificially-grown vegetable cells and UV-sensitive 3D printer ink to print vegetables. Their pitch included plans to modify 3D printers to accommodate biological matter, and a prototype printed carrot. As winners of the FoodTech category, Annan and Al Mansoori won 25,000 Qatari riyals to invest into their idea. “It was an intense competition with 308 applicants and 62 pitches, and I am grateful that we made it,” says Al Mansoori.

Impressed by the ingenuity of the two CMU-Q students, the varsity’s dean Michael Trick says, “We encourage our students at CMU-Q to apply knowledge they learn here to create solutions that will have a big impact. Congratulations to Mohammad and Lujain for such an innovative approach to food security.”

Dr. Hamad Mejegheer, Executive Director of Advisory & Incubation at QDB, emphasized the importance of the competition, “The BIA Hackathon represents a continuation of our efforts to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem that embraces innovators and pioneers who add value to our diversified and knowledge-based economy in line with the strategic objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030.”

Beginning their third year in information systems at CMU-Q, both students intend on developing their idea along with their studies. “We have spent a lot of time on developing a CAD model for a specialized 3D printer that can use edible inks to print food products. As each layer is printed, UV light solidifies the edible ink, and in the end you have a vegetable,” says Annan, who has been working on the details of adapting 3D printer technology for food making. Al Mansoori paints a broader picture of optimism about the possibilities for food production. She says, “We could potentially print food in bulk, greatly reducing the time and money it takes to grow fruits and vegetables. We aim to remove the dependence on farming and imports completely. It’s limitless what we can do.”

QDB’s BIA Hackathon was designed to empower entrepreneurs in Qatar to share their ideas and creative solutions to address challenges in digital transformation across a variety of industries. Besides foodtech, the 2023 edition covered fashiontech, fintech, and sportstech industries, featuring solutions on customer experience enablement and operational solutions for digital transformation in a number of sectors.

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