Student startup Rice Inc supplies ethical rice to UCL caterers
28 January 2020
Rice Inc, a social startup founded by UCL students, has partnered with multinational food services company Sodexo to bring ethical rice to UCL.
Tackling rice poverty
Rice Inc is a social enterprise, founded by UCL students Kisum Chan and Lincoln Lee (BSc Biomedical Sciences). Their company provides high quality rice while aiming to have a positive impact on the life of farmers and the environment.
Rice Inc works with South East Asian rice farmers to reduce their losses and increase their income. They source quality rice from South East Asia and re-invest the profits in vulnerable farming communities to build an ethical, sustainable and zero waste supply chain.
By providing the farmers with technologies to dry rice, Rice Inc are helping farmers nearly double their income, by recovering up to 30% of rice which would otherwise be lost. This ensures more food for our future and less greenhouse gas emissions from wasted rice.
Finding a route to market
Rice supplied by Rice Inc is now available as part of Sodexo’s food offering in the Refectory, so you can support a UCL student startup and farmers in South East Asia while buying lunch.
The partnership between Rice Inc and Sodexo was facilitated by UCL Innovation & Enterprise and UCL Estates. Since August 2019, Rice Inc has been working with Jonathan Grinbaud, Business Adviser in the Global innovation team within Innovation & Enterprise, on their go-to-market strategy.
After an initial brainstorming session with Kisum and Lincoln, it appeared the most relevant route to market would be through Sodexo, the main catering provider at UCL. Jonathan, working with Ian Wright, Soft Services Manager in UCL Estates, identified the appropriate point of contact within Sodexo and introduced them to the Rice Inc team.
Neil Whittle, Sodexo Contract Director at UCL, said: “When we first met Lincoln and Kisum and discovered the social and environmental impact of Rice Inc, we did not hesitate to start the process to be able to buy their rice and offer it to our customers at UCL.”
Growing their business at UCL
In December 2017, along with two other UCL students, Kisum and Lincoln took part in the UCL campus round of the Hult Prize. The Hult Prize challenge was to build a sustainable, scalable social enterprise that harnesses the power of energy to transform the lives of 10 million people.
The Rice Inc team beat 200,000 other ideas to pitch at the Hult Prize global finals and win the $1 million prize, presented by President Bill Clinton at the UN.
Rice Inc are currently based in the Hatchery, a dedicated startup space within BaseKX, UCL’s entrepreneurship hub in King’s Cross. There they have access to free office space, event space and entrepreneurship advice to further develop their company.
Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice-Provost (Enterprise) said: “I’m delighted that Rice Inc are partnering with Sodexo, influencing the food we eat at UCL. They’re a fantastic example of how the UCL community are solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges and making a real impact in society”.
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Photo features Michael Shipman (Sodexo Head Chef), Kisum Chan and Lincoln Lee (Rice Inc founders), Dr Celia Caulcott (Vice-Provost (Enterprise)), and Andy Norton (Sodexo Retail Director at UCL). Photo by Fatoumata Simpara, Sodexo marketing apprentice