Students at the 800+ registered institutions of higher learning in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are invited to design innovative solutions that transform food systems

January 25, 2021, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Basel, Switzerland – Today, the “Rising Star Agri-Food Innovation Challenge 2021” opens for early sign-ups, calling on students at registered institutions of higher learning across Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to innovate and build sustainable and inclusive food systems that are healthy for society and the planet.

The Rising Star Agri-Food Innovation Challenge is the first and largest Agri-Food-Tech-focused student competition in the region, exclusively brought to life by the Indonesia Malaysia Thailand Growth Triangle University Network (IMT-GT UNINET) and Green Growth Asia Foundation (GGAF), and powered by the global Thought For Food (TFF) Foundation.

The virtual MOU signing ceremony that took place today officially marks the partnership between the three parties, and signals that signups are officially open via the TFF Digital Labs platform. Students can now register to enter the Rising Star Agri-Food Innovation Challenge, and begin their journey of innovation and collaboration with the resources, mentors and experts TFF’s unique digital platform provides.

UNINET is a strategic component for IMT-GT and was established by the Prime Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It brings together the leading universities of these three countries for cooperation in the areas of education, research, and economic development. Green Growth Asia Foundation is a non-profit organisation that provides sustainability-based education and awareness-raising initiatives to achieve green growth across Asia. Both organizations have a strong and growing focus in the agriculture and food domains, and have come together to initiate this challenge to catalyze, accelerate and scale-up cutting-edge solutions that unlock the potential of the region’s agri-food systems, for and by youth. 

“Food security, food safety, and nutrition have re-emerged as topics of paramount importance for our region, and for the world. Our Growth Triangle’s efforts lie on addressing these topics through youth empowerment, and by driving forward cutting-edge innovation that is enabled by digital collaboration. This is our chance to foster an enabling environment for innovation and entrepreneurship that is pivotal for our economic growth, and for building a brighter future for our next generations,” states Professor Dr Ir Samsul Rizal M.Eng., IPU,  Chairman of IMT-GT UNINET.

The Challenge call is open to all undergraduate and graduate students, across all disciplines, at more than 800 registered institutions of higher learning, including Universities, University Colleges, Colleges, Vocational & Technical Colleges in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. From science and engineering, to computer science and design, from agriculture to architecture, and everything in between, students are encouraged to tap into their expertise and next-gen skillsets, unleash their creativity, and apply their digital savviness and purpose-driven mindsets to address the urgent challenges facing the agri-food sector.

“This is a sector ripe for reinvention,” states Dr. Mahadi Mohamad, Executive Director of Green Growth Asia Foundation. “While the agri-food industry used to be about out-dated approaches and dismal prospects, we are seeing a new wave of entrepreneurs coming in and changing everything. From how and where we grow our food, to empowering smallholder farmers, to ensuring stable and transparent supply chains, and addressing consumer demands for higher quality, safer and more nutritious food – even innovating for the fast-growing Halal sector – there is ample space for young, bright minds to push things forward in the way they best know how. This Challenge is a call to action for our region’s young people, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with.”

Participants in the Rising Star Agri-Food Innovation Challenge have the chance to win the Grand Prize of US$5,000 and the Runner-Up Prize of US$2,500, which will be awarded per country. Each country’s Grand Prize winner and Runner Up team will also be named as the National Semi-Finalists in the Thought For Food Global Challenge, the world’s largest and most diverse innovation competition in food and agriculture, which kicks off in April.

By signing up, students will also gain access to the TFF Digital Labs, a first-of-its-kind, next-gen digital collaboration platform that supports young innovators in developing ideas and turning them into successful ventures. Users can delve into interactive learning experiences, live events and robust content to help them flesh out their ideas, while also tapping into a global network of industry experts and peer collaborators. 

“Over the past 8 years, Thought For Food has helped students around the world to create more than 10,000 new business concepts, and has launched 60+ startups that have gone on to collectively raise more than $200m in capital. We have also connected young talents to careers across the industry, working with our partners like Danone, DSM, KWS, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the United Nations. We are thrilled to be powering this Challenge, and look forward to working with the people and ideas that come through, and to providing young people across the region with more opportunities to innovate, take action, and gain partners and investments that will enable their success,” states Christine Gould, Founder and CEO, Thought For Food Foundation.

Rising Star Agri-Food Innovation Challenge

Design innovative solutions that transform food systems in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

UNINET was formed in 1996 by IMT-GT and initially comprised eight universities in the network. UNINET is a valued strategic component for IMT-GT. The UNINET Strategic Action Plan 2017-2021 draws upon UNINET’s wealth of experience gained over the past 20 years of operation in order to chart a new and relevant course for its work within the IMT-GT context. From the outset of IMT-GT’s formation, one of the key growth strategies underlined by IMT-GT in enhancing the economic development of IMT-GT, aimed to establish a strong collaboration with universities in the subregion. It was and still believed that higher education can generate broader economic growth as well as individual success.

About Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT)
The Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) was established in 1993 with the aim of accelerating economic growth and transformation of the IMT-GT subregion by exploiting underlying complementarities and comparative advantages; enhancing the subregion’s competitiveness for investments and exports; promoting tourism; lowering transport and transaction costs; and reducing production and distribution costs through greater economies of scale. For the past 27 years, since its establishment in 1993, IMT-GT had grown both in geographical scope and activities, supported by the vigor and dynamism of the private sector which built many partnerships and alliances.  At the same time, people-to-people contact had increased helping-built trust and confidence and instilling a feeling of community in the IMT-GT.  There were also significant gains in trade, travel and tourism, as well as improvements in physical connectivity within the IMT-GT subregion. IMT-GT has expanded to its present geographic scope of 14 provinces in Southern Thailand; 8 states in Peninsular Malaysia; and 10 provinces on the Island of Sumatra in Indonesia, covering the area of 0.57 million square kilometres, with the population of more than 84 million.

About Green Growth Asia Foundation
Green Growth Asia Foundation (GGAF) is a nonprofit organisation that provides a platform for leadership, thought and action in responding to sustainability challenges in Asia. It is achieving this through cutting edge ‘green growth’ programmes that drive economic prosperity within a socially inclusive context, underpinned by a strong sense of responsibility towards the environment and advanced through education for sustainable development initiatives. Our work is undertaken strategically and this is guided by our Green Growth Strategic Framework (GGSF), which sets out our vision and goals together with our method of working. We have a special focus on Education for Sustainable Development and our Eco-Schools Programme and Young Reporters for the Environment are good examples of our programmes under this pathway. Find out more about GGAF at

 About Thought For Food®️
Thought For Food is food and agriculture’s entrepreneurial innovation engine for impact. They work with more than 25,000 next-generation leaders from over 175 countries, empowering them to generate and scale breakthrough business ventures that build sustainable, inclusive, and resilient food systems. TFF’s comprehensive suite of next-gen innovation programs include the TFF Challenge®️, an annual collaborative innovation prize competition: the TFF Digital Labs™, a digital startup accelerator and collaboration platform; the TFF Academy, an incubation program for world-class startups; and the TFF Summit/ TFF Challenge Finale, an in-person/ virtual flagship global event focused on bringing the voices of the next generation together with policy and business leaders to co-create solutions. TFF®️‘s work is powered by a global operating structure that includes the TFF Core Team, 14 Regional Coordinators and 500 Ambassadors in more than 200 cities, as well as diverse partners such as DSM, KWS, and Rockefeller Foundation. Thought For Food®️ is a 501c3 non-profit entity. Find out more about Thought For Food®️ at