University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

The 2011 Spring Semester Acara Challenge addressed the topic of Food and/or Water Security.  Participating universities were: US: Cornell, Duke, Hartford, Roosevelt-Chicago, Minnesota, Arizona State; India: India Institute of Technology at Roorkee, KIIT University in Bhubaneswar, Vellore Institute of Technology, TERI University, and KJ Somaiya Institute of Management; Mexico: Tec de Monterrey – Toluca.

Twenty one business plans were reviewed (numbers were intentionally reduced from 2010 to improve overall quality), with eight finalists presenting at the St. Paul campus of UMN, May 16th. We had an equivalent number of judges and mentors as in 2010. Four teams including TextRA, Sewasan, Swach and Ankur Initiative were selected to receive $5K in funding and a scholarship to attend the Summer Institute 2011.

The Summer Institute2011 took place in Bangalore, in July. It was a three-week program that combined field and classroom work and moved the business plans forward. These teams are now in virtual incubation, working to execute a pilot program to verify their plan.

Prithvi Pani

University of Minnesota and TERI University
Prithvi Pani aims to decrease death and illness in urban slums by addressing a major root cause: poor water quality. Prithvi Pani will assemble, package, and distribute components for ceramic water filters, which eliminate 98-99% of contaminants, as well as educating customers on their use.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation


University of Minnesota and TERI University
Sewasan  is 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.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the video


Cornell University and Somaiya Institute
Students at Cornell and Somaiya 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.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation

PURigate Water Services

University of Hartford and Vellore Institute of Technology
The PURigate Water Services team, saw that crop yields are decreasing in Vellore because of soil contamination caused by tannery runoff. Their solution uses reverse osmosis technology to purify groundwater, which can then be used to irrigate agricultural fields for more robust harvests.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation

Prosperity Cart

Cornell University and Somaiya Institute
Prosperity Cart designed, a durable, long-lasting state-of-the art food cart for street vendors that will minimize food’s exposure to dust and germs. Increased food hygiene will result in less customer illness, and, for vendors, an increased customer base and lower cost of operations.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation

The Ankur Initiative

Duke University and IIT Roorkee
The Ankur Initiative, 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.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation


University of Minnesota and TERI University
TextRA, a versatile resource accessibility 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.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation

Thenggai Thanni

Vellore Institute of Technology
Thenggai Thanni, will benefit coconut farmers in the Vellore district by buying coconuts from them at competitive prices, processing the fruits and selling them in various forms, including coconut water. The profits will then be used to provide farmers with technical know-how to boost their efficiency and economic situation.
Read the business plan (pdf) | Watch the presentation

Acara is the impact entrepreneurship program of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment in partnership with the College of Science and Engineering and the Carlson School of Management.

January 23, 2015:
Acara Challenge Applications Due

January 26, 2015:
Apply now for Acara May-Term India Study Abroad Course!
More info: CE 5570: Discovery India

February 26, 2015:
Acara Challenge 2015 Competition at McNamara Alumni Center, 8am-4pm

Acara Challenge 2015 Reception and Award Ceremony at McNamara Alumni Center, 5:30-8:30pm