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Tech startups team up with the United Nations to tackle worldwide hunger

Solutions range from an electricity-free refrigerator to a no-soil platform for growing food in "impossible places."

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jjaffe-headshot
Justin Jaffe
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1 of 13 Angela Lang/CNET

On Tuesday night, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) held its first Innovation Accelerator pitch contest in the US at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Sesi Technologies -- a company based in Kumasi, Ghana, that makes a grain moisture meter -- won the jury's prize for "most impactful pitch." 

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Sesi Technologies co-founder Isaac Sesi said the company has been working for three years on the GrainMate. 

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The company has produced about 300 units. They sell for about $90 each. 

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The WFP teams spent the past week with some of the world's foremost experts in artificial intelligence, machine learning and hardware manufacturing from Google and other Bay Area tech firms. 

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Fenik CEO Quang Truong shows off the Yuma cooler, which keeps fruits, vegetables, beverages and dairy products cold without electricity. 

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The Yuma cooler retails for $150 in developed countries; Fenik uses some of the proceeds to offer it at a heavily discounted price to customers in Morocco.
 

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A modern take on the ancient zeer pot, the Yuma uses evaporative cooling to extend the lifespan of food by three to five times, according to the company, which has raised more than $80,000 for the project on Kickstarter

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For the past four years, the WFP been recruiting and cultivating entrepreneurs in the US and abroad who can address hunger-related issues in the world's poorest countries including Bangladesh, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. 

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Members of the GrainMate team.

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Tamwini, another of the WFP teams, has designed an app to help Iraqis navigate the bureaucracy of their country's food ration system. 

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More than 850 milion Indians receive subsidized food rations -- but more than 40% of that food fails to reach its intended beneficiary. Here, Piyush Kanal shows off the "Grain ATM," a solution to help Indians accurately measure food rations.

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