Haas Students Wins with Big Ideas

A plan to boost the quality and economic opportunity found in your morning cup of coffee harvested a first-place prize for Iris Shim, MBA 12, and UC Berkeley teammates in the IT for Society Competition, one of several contests that make up the Big Ideas@Berkeley competition.

Shim teamed up with Ariel Chait, a graduate student working toward a master of information management and systems (MIMS) in 2012, and Seth Garz, who will earn a master's in public policy (MPP) this year, on Crop to Cup, a proposal for a technology platform aimed at increasing the transparency, traceability, and quality assurance along the global commodity chain for coffee. “We hope that enabling access to local information will increase farmers' access to capital, mitigate risk for loan providers, and provide transparency for producers and consumers,” says Shim.

Crop to Cup was one of 12 teams to present at the IT for Society finals on April 14, emerging from an original field of 45 teams. The trio won the top prize of $15,000 and will use the money to fund a 12-week pilot and prototype development project in Mexico this summer, where they will partner with a coffee cooperative of more than 6,000 farmers in Oaxaca.

The IT for Society competition was sponsored by CITRIS, the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, and open to students from UC schools with CITRIS on campus: Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz.

In the overall Big Ideas@Berkeley competition, Berkeley-Haas ideas were well represented among winning and placing teams:

  • Nanxi Liu, BS 12, was part of a team that placed first in the Improving Student Life competition and a team that took second in the IT for Society competition. Both honors came for “Crime Fighter,” the first mobile technology that allows user to maintain anonymity and quickly report crime with a text-based application for smartphones.
  • Jin Liu, BS 11, was on a team that placed second in the Safe Water Enterprise competition for “Health in Hands,” a UC Berkeley student organization that has worked to address water, sanitation, and hygiene issues in urban slums in India since 2004. Moving forward, the students will concentrate on hand hygiene among children as a way to prevent disease and infection.
  • Evening & Weekend MBA Program students Shishir Agrawal, MBA 12, and Tilak Gopalarathnam, MBA 13, were on a team that placed third in a competition for energy efficient technologies with Zaakta, a web-based marketplace that offers an alternative way to finance energy conservation measures.

UC Berkeley's annual "Big Ideas" prize competition inspires innovative and high-impact student projects aimed at solving the world's most pressing problems. Its numerous contests are sponsored by a variety of UC organizations and centers, including the Sustainable Products and Solutions Program at the Haas School’s Center for Responsible Business. Big Ideas@Berkeley is made possible through the generosity of many supporters, in particular the Andrew and Virginia Rudd Family Foundation.