Jordanian, US students collaborate to fight food waste

Food Waste
A screengrab of a Zoom meeting of the HTU team, winners of the Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge. (Photo: Handout from the Planeteers)
AMMAN — A Jordanian and international student team from Al Hussein Technical University (HTU) has won first place in the 2021 IREX - Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge, sponsored by the US Department of State, with a platform that tackles the environmental and economic impacts of food waste.اضافة اعلان

The virtual exchange competition, which was held online, saw the participation of 27 multi-national teams, composed of 610 students from 42 institutions across the US, Jordan, and Iraq, according to Raed Mehyar, the winning team’s technology specialist.

“I was over the moon. The winners’ announcement was an astonishing moment!” Mehyar said in an interview with Jordan News, describing it as “a huge win.”

The rewarded project seeks to innovatively tackle “the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet, and profit,” according to Mehyar, meeting the requirements of the business sector. 

The team, called Planeteers, successfully identified core sustainability problems to be targeted based on real research of Jordanian and American needs. They found that food waste has the “biggest potential,” Sanad Al-Kiswani, a non-limited technology specialist on the team, explained to Jordan News.

Their final project is a developed platform that helps to curb the negative environmental and economic impacts resulting from food waste in “a creative, efficient, and feasible way,” Kiswani said.

“Our platform, Paragon, helps food industry stakeholders optimize the communication in the supply chain. The platform also includes supply and demand forecasting by providing an agile, transparent way to exchange data,” added Kiswani.

Students expressed intentions for future development, as they aim at expanding the awarded project “to become a fully functioning platform that can be used on a very large scale,” through creating a functioning prototype allowing real testing, according to Kiswani.

The envisioned prototype would also be used for “finding potential investors,” said the team’s prototype leader, Aya Mousa.

The students interviewed expressed how much they gained from the competition, as it developed their knowledge and skills, with a focus on entrepreneurship and actual real-life scenarios in Jordan.

“Getting this recognition provides a pathway to new connections in this field, which is really important to us,” Mousa said.

For Mehyar, gaining “cross-cultural” knowledge and skills was his favorite part of the remote virtual exchange. He worked with American colleagues from Santa Fe College, alongside the 13 Jordanian members from the Planeteers team. 

Kiswani stressed that the team’s success was rooted in the “exceptionally experienced and skilled” team members. “It was a bit stressful at the start, but after the first week or two, we were able to organize the different roles and tasks and create a highly productive environment for our team!”

The challenge is funded by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the US Department of State, with funding provided by the US government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. It is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the UAE, according to IREX’s website.

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