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More than they baaagained for

A Gisborne student has successfully tackled one of the biggest challenges facing the world — how to produce more nutritious food.

Kenya Akuhata-Brown, a Year 13 student from Lytton High School, was one of a team that won the Massey Innovator’s Award with an idea of fortifying sheep’s milk with iodine, calcium and iron to produce a mineral-rich drink for toddlers. The team also developed a brand for their product, MilkBaa, offering flavours like ‘‘straaw-berry’’, ‘‘choco-laate’’ and ‘‘baa-naa-na’’.

The Massey Innovator’s Challenge, run by the Young Enterprise Trust and sponsored by Massey University, was held at the University of Auckland as part of the annual Enterprise in Action weekend. It involved 80 of the country’s brightest, business-minded teenagers.

Massey was asked to develop its own challenge focused on stimulating New Zealand’s economy and future prosperity. The university says it chose food innovation because of its importance to the country’s economy, but also because feeding the world well will become increasingly difficult in coming decades.

Kenya says her team won the competition because MilkBaa was a good idea that had universal appeal.

“It was an innovative product that could have a real impact on our future. MilkBaa targeted young people and their health, an issue that New Zealand is having trouble with.”

Hard work and learning lessonsIt took 10 hours of hard work to develop the idea and write the business plan, before delivering a tense five-minute pitch.

“I am proud that all our hard work paid off.”

Kenya says she mainly contributed to the marketing aspects of the business plan and learned a lot from other team members.

“Talking to one another and working together was really key. I really learned the importance of communication and teamwork.”

The winnings . . .Kenya and her teammates received $5000-worth of scholarships from the Massey Business School and the Massey University College of Health.

All competitors received a $1000 scholarship, bringing the total value of scholarships offered to $144,000 for the Enterprise in Action weekend.

Aside from MilkBaa, other ideas included a healthy sugar made from manuka honey, a natural powder containing phytase to help zinc absorption that could be added to food staples like bread and rice, and a fast-growing super grass enhanced with micro-nutrients to produce better quality meat and eggs.

Food a global issueMassey Business School executive director of education partnerships Dr Jeff Stangl says food is one of only three commodities — along with water and shelter — that every human on the planet needs to survive.

“In simple terms, the world needs more food and better food sustainably produced. We were keen to see how the next generation intends to capture a larger share of the global food market while balancing the impact on the environment and we were not disappointed.”

Kenya’s teammates were Matt Rea from Rangitoto College, Laura Blundell from Ruawai College, Logan Bateman from Otaki College, Alana Roberts from Takapuna Grammar School, Toby Carr from Liston College, Benjamin Payne from Macleans College and Jackson Ralph from Hastings Boys’ High School.

INNOVATOR: Kenya Akuhata-Brown pictured at the Massey Innovators Challenge. The Lytton High School student was part of the winning team who took out the competition with their product MilkBaa. Picture supplied