Carnegie Mellon Qatar students have won a top foodtech prize for 3D printing vegetables.

Mohammad Fadhel Annan and Lujain Al Mansoori who study at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner university, created an idea for 3D-printed vegetables, an alternative to farming that could bolster food security in places like Qatar where there is very little arable land.

The pair were honoured in the FoodTech category at a Qatar Development Bank (QDB) competition, the Business Incubation and Acceleration Hackathon, taking home QR25,000 to invest into their idea.

The Hackathon was designed to empower entrepreneurs in Qatar to share their ideas and creative solutions to address challenges in digital transformation across a variety of industries.

The 2023 edition spanned the fintech, sportstech and fashiontech industries, and featured solutions on enabling customer experiences and operational solutions for digital transformation in several sectors.

For the competition, the students developed their idea to use a combination of artificially grown vegetable cells and UV-sensitive 3D printer ink to print vegetables. Their pitch included plans to modify 3D printers to accommodate biological matter, and a prototype printed carrot.

Mohammad, who has been working on the details of adapting 3D printer technology for the purpose of making food, said: “We have spent a lot of time developing a CAD model for a specialised 3D printer that can use edible inks to print food products. As each layer is printed, UV light solidifies the edible ink and, in the end, you have a vegetable.”

Lujain added: “We could potentially print food in bulk, greatly reducing the time and money it takes to grow fruits and vegetables. It’s limitless what we can do.”

Michael Trick, dean of CMU-Q, was impressed by the ingenuity of the idea, saying: “We encourage our students at CMU-Q to apply the knowledge they learn here to create solutions that will have a big impact. Congratulations to Mohammad and Lujain for such an innovative approach to food security.”

After their successful pitch at the QDB competition, the students have been offered a seat in QDB’s startup programme, where they will have access to experts and mentors to guide their progress. And both are now beginning their third year in information systems during which they will continue working on their innovation.

Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar offers undergraduate degree programmes in four fields: biological sciences, business administration, computer science and information systems. Students are encouraged to work across disciplines to create projects that have a real-world impact. ✤