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Acara Finalists: On to India!

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acara challenge.jpgBY SRI LATHA

The Acara Challenge 2011 results are out! Four teams of student social entrepreneurs have been chosen to receive Acara scholarships of $5,000 and tuition for the Acara Summer Institute in India to advance their business: TextRA, Sewasan, Swach and Ankur Initiative.

Over the last semester, as part of the Acara Challenge, a program of the IonE-affiliated Acara Institute, 21 teams involving about 175 students from 12 participating universities in the U.S., India and Mexico worked to develop business ideas to tackle global challenges of food and water security. For this they received a lot of support from their professors, industry mentors and international university partners. Of these 21 teams, eight were chosen to present at the Acara Challenge Finals yesterday at the Institute on the Environment.

At the Acara Challenge Finals, these eight teams pitched their business idea to a panel of judges composed of domain experts, investors, and business and nonprofit leaders. The judges then selected the teams to receive the Acara scholarships. While all eight teams have great ideas and potential to have a large impact, four teams were selected to receive a grant of $5,000 and tuition for the Acara Summer Institute, a business accelerator to be held in June-July 2011 in Bangalore, India.

Here is a summary of the four teams:

                                                                 TextRA
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for textra.jpgA partnership of the University of Minnesota and TERI University in Delhi, this team has developed TextRA, a network that will instantly deliver key information on food and water availability at various locations to the hands of malnourished and resource-deprived individuals, saving them precious time and energy.

Sewasan
Sewasan, another UMN-TERI team, is a community-directed cooperative that will create and maintain toilet facilities in urban slums and charge residents to use them, either on a pay-per-use basis or through a monthly subscription fee. The presence of these facilities will decrease the spread of food- and water-borne illnesses, increase quality of life, and provide employment opportunities for local residents.

Swach
Students at Cornell and the K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management in Mumbai created Swach to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the midday meal audit process in schools. Swach would provide testing kits and the communication infrastructure to test for food quality issues and report them to authorities, allowing time-strapped government auditors to focus where they are most needed.

Ankur Initiative
The Ankur Initiative, a collaborative effort between students at Duke and the India Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, aims to combat water stress in parts of rural India by selling affordable polytunnels - lightweight plastic miniature greenhouses - to subsistence farmers in order to reduce water loss and increase crop yields.

Watch the Acara website for more information about these teams' progress at the Summer Institute and beyond!

Photos by Sarah Karnas and Todd Reubold 

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  of the Institute on the Environment/University of Minnesota.

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