Skip to content
19.4 °Cforecast >

Woohoo Akash and Yili!

Guelph teens awarded SHAD overall prize as Innovators of the Year for novel idea to tackle food insecurity
Akash and Yili - Guelph



TORONTO – Akash Jain, Yili Xu and their team of 34 high school students from British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario have been named the Innovators of the Year at the SHAD - John Dobson Entrepreneurship Cup.

The team formed this summer at SHAD Queen’s, one of 12 host university campuses for the STEAM based enrichment program, SHAD, to create Farms2Forks, an online e-commerce platform directly connecting small scale farmers and processors to households.

People who are food insecure can order their groceries online, get a 30 per cent discount and have the food delivered directly to their door so they can access quality food at prices they can afford.

“Before SHAD, most of us had no idea the extent of the food security problem in Canada,” says Akash Jain, the grade 11 student who is team leader for Farms2Forks.

He adds, “Many families in Canada are struggling to provide nutritious food to their families on a consistent basis, which poses a number of concerns, especially to children who are still developing.”

The team reached out to hundreds of small scale farmers and processors around the country as well as the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. In addition, several prominent business and political leaders including the mayor of Richmond Hill, Ontario encouraged them that Farm2Forks could be a viable business.

The SHAD - John Dobson Entrepreneurship Cup awards were presented last night at a ceremony at the Mattamy Athletic Centre at Ryerson University in Toronto, which will become the 13th host university campus for SHAD next July.

Named after one of SHAD’s long serving supporters who was passionate about youth and entrepreneurship, the Cup showcases the exceptional talent and innovative ideas of SHAD Fellows who participated in the prestigious enrichment program in 2016.

The program focused around STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) is designed to help top high school students reach their potential.

In one of the unique elements at SHAD, youth are challenged to innovate to come up with an original product or service to solve a current economic or social problem.

On the cusp of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the students from around the country were challenged this summer to come up with new ideas to improve food security. With approximately four million Canadians experiencing hunger, food security is a critical national issue.

The students came up with many interesting and novel ideas which can be found here including SHAD Dalhousie’s CrickEats Farming System, human-grade equipment to harvest protein rich crickets for human consumption in a manner that is efficient, affordable and sustainable.

“It is so impressive to see the kinds of novel ideas top high school students come up with in only a few months when they collaborate at SHAD,” says Tim Jackson, President and Chief Executive Officer of SHAD. He adds, “Many of the students told me this experience has given them added confidence to go back into their communities and make a difference.”

In addition to Innovators of the Year, awards were handed out in seven categories with Farm2Forms taking first place overall in three: Best Application of Scientific Principles, Best Video Pitch and Best Application of Theme.

Industry experts including representatives from lead theme sponsor Maple Leaf Foods helped judge the award for Best Application of Theme.

“Four million Canadians face food insecurity,” says Lynda Kuhn, Senior Vice President of Sustainability and Public Affairs at Maple Leaf Foods. “It is inspiring to see young leaders at SHAD think so creatively to develop practical approaches to advance sustainable food security, many of which have the potential to be commercialized.”

In past years, some SHAD Fellows have taken their original ideas and created businesses. In 2010, one SHAD Fellow Rameez Virji designed a new way to vaccinate people using a pill rather than a needle. He is currently awaiting patent approval.