Two Syracuse teams advance to Hult Prize regionals


Student startups Farm to Flame Energy and Drop Top are both advancing to the regionals of the prestigious Hult Prize.  Farm to Flame Energy will compete in Boston, and Drop Top will compete in Toronto.  Fifteen regional finals are being held in early March to select teams for the final global round.

A winning team from each of the 15 regional finals will be selected to participate in an eight-week summer residency at the Hult Castle accelerator in the United Kingdom, and a chance to pitch at the United Nations in September 2018, with the winning team receiving the $1,000,000 grand prize.

Farm to Flame Energy, is founded by William Lee Mendes McKnight ’18, Arts and Sciences.  The venture partners with entrepreneurially minded community members in developing countries to collaboratively design and develop micro-grid solutions, leveraging locally grown crops, to harness the power of energy and build more sustainable rural economies.  Farm to Flame Energy team members include Kwaku Jyamfi ’18, a chemical engineering major in Engineering and Computer Science, and Sayje Lasenberry ’19, who is majoring in sustainable energy management at SUNY ESF.

Drop Top is proposing an idea to conserve water and enhance drip irrigation utilizing REVLAR, a waterproof, tear-proof, durable, and impervious paper-thin material specifically designed to withstand high/low temperature fluctuations.  Drop Top’s ingenious design, made entirely of REVLAR, increases agricultural output while conserving water.  Drop Top team members include Jason Kuperberg ’18, a biotechnology major in Arts and Sciences,  Serena DeSeta ’18, a dual major in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises and advertising and business communication in Whitman, and Matthew Goodman ’19, a design major in Visual and Performing Arts (VPA).

The Hult Prize, known as “The Nobel Prize for student startups,” seeks out game-changing student social enterprises that compete to solve the world’s toughest challenges.  This year’s theme, “Harnessing the Power of Energy,” issued a challenge to conceive a scalable solution to transform the lives of 10 million people by 2025.  Energy-powered innovation was broadly defined to include six core areas:  connectivity; mobility; farming, food and agriculture; water collection, storage and transport; health and the human experience; and education.

Swedish billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist Bertil Hult established the competition in 2009, and each year the Hult family donates $1,000,000 in seed capital to the winning social enterprise.

Syracuse teams advancing to the regionals were selected through a campus competition in December.  Judges selected Farm to Flame Energy and Drop Top as top picks, based on their ideas that combined energy, agriculture, education, conservation, and sustainable enterprise.

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