On May 4-5, the online Hack AgriFood Challenge Lab’22 by EIT Food was organized. During the event, students and other innovators had the opportunity to address important challenges in the agrifood sector by offering solutions that could contribute to shaping a sustainable and efficient future for the sector, and to learn from top level experts in various business fields.

“This Challenge Lab, initiated by EIT Food, is a great opportunity for young people to try themselves, test their ideas and gain experience from mentors – real experts, – with whom, normally, they would not be able to meet. I am glad that this year the students of Vilnius University of Applied Sciences participated in this hackathon very actively, gained knowledge that cannot be learned during regular lectures, and met innovators not only from different faculties, but also from other Lithuanian cities. I believe that we will continue this initiative in the future and provide an opportunity for young innovators to improve, learn and win cash prizes,” said the organizer of the event Kristina Šermukšnytė-Alešiūnienė, Director of AgriFood Lithuania DIH.

The main cash prize of the Challenge Lab – 2000 euros – was won by the team “Tricked”, consisting of students of the Agribusiness Technologies study program of the Faculty of Agrotechnologies of Vilnius University of Applied Sciences. Team members Gabrielė Avgustaitytė, Tautvydas Lazauskas, Robertas Gribauskas, Arnas Astravas ir Meda Balsevičiūtė-Yildirim offered Lithuania a really innovative and sustainable idea – “Growing rare mushrooms in coffee grounds”.

We asked the lead of the team Gabrielė Avgustaitytė to share her thoughts and impressions.

Who encouraged/what motivated you to take part in the Hack AgriFood Challenge Lab’22 by EIT Food?

We were encouraged by our lecturer Gražina Palaitytė and driven by the desire to learn something new.

What is the main idea of your solution? How did you come up with it?

Our idea is to grow mushrooms in coffee grounds. During the hackathon, we tackled two challenges: the use of alternative proteins and the re-use of coffee grounds, which are currently simply being discarded. The idea itself came naturally, because one of our team members is a vegan, who is constantly looking for alternative proteins because she cannot get them from meat or other non-vegetable products. In addition, in surveys conducted before the hakathon, we noticed that people are very interested in alternative proteins, and their demand is increasing.

What was the hardest part for you during the Challenge Lab?

The hardest part, perhaps, was finding the information to explain in detail how the whole process and the logistics would work.

What impressed you the most?

I liked the fact that among the mentors we found like-minded people who had experience in growing mushrooms in Lithuania. Of course, not in coffee grounds, but we got useful information about the varieties and the process itself. It was fun to interact with professionals in their field.

What advice would you give to people who are afraid to participate? Would you recommend others to join Challenge Lab in the future?

No one should be afraid, trying does not hurt! We definitely encourage everyone to participate. The new experience and knowledge gained during the Challenge Lab is very useful for all of us. No one should miss this chance!