Hacking global food security with STEM and entrepreneurship


The hackathon trend has made its way into the higher education sector, with Monash University’s Faculty of Science hosting the first #GlobalHungerHack this weekend (Friday 26 – Sunday 28 February). The weekend-long event will deliver enterprise concepts that increase food security and help to solve global hunger. 

By combining science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) with entrepreneurship and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the weekend integrates disciplines that often act independently of one another.

Partnering with BlueChilli - Australia’s leading start-up accelerator - Oxfam Australia, the Foundation for Young Australians and Young Opportunities Australia, #GlobalHungerHack provides expert consultation from across fields. Judges for the event include Victorian Chief Scientist Leonie Walsh, Director of FutureEye consultancy, Cate Turner, and entrepreneurs Buzz Palmer and David Urpani.

Participants in #GlobalHungerHack are drawn from a diverse range of communities including the university student population and broader community. Throughout the weekend participants will be coached by some of Australia’s finest young entrepreneurs and leaders. These include 2014 national finalist of the young Australian of the Year awards, Julian O’Shea and entrepreneur and 2014 finalist of the Westpac 100 Women of Influence awards, Julian Kenny.

“The hackathon idea-development framework initially arose in the tech industry,” said Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, founder and CEO of BlueChilli.

“But in recent years, we’ve been able to show that good hackathon practice can demonstrate real and significant innovation in any organisation or industry; at low cost, in a short time. We’re proud to be involved in developing new ideas for solving world hunger with an organisation as globally respected as Monash University, and we can’t wait to see the outcomes of the event."

The weekend is the brainchild of academics from a unique degree offered by Monash University, the Bachelor of Science Advanced - Global Challenges (Honours), where students start their own business alongside a traditional science education. The only one of its kind in Australia, Global Challenges students are also trained in leadership, science diplomacy and communication.

#GlobalHungerHack’s facilitator and lecturer in entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Science, Erin Watson-Lynn, is experienced in hackathons and aware of their potential in bringing about positive change. Erin and her team were the winners of the Federal Government’s Policy Hack in 2015 with DICE Kids’ Lemonade Day.

“Hackathons are a great way of bringing together a broad range of people to co-design innovative solutions to complex global challenges,” Ms Watson-Lynn said.

Dr Rowan Brookes, coordinator of the Bachelor of Science Advanced - Global Challenges, explained the value in applying science to other areas such as business and entrepreneurship.

“STEM is a powerful change agent when our young people are taught to apply it in non-traditional settings. It is wonderful that the Faculty of Science can be pivotal in sparking innovation through a hacking weekend,” Dr Brookes said.