We’ve already looked at a few of this year’s Tech Awards Laureates (Solar Ear, Cows to Kilowatts), which have been honored by the international awards program for developing technology that benefits humanity. But the laureate that might just have the most widespread impact in the developing world is PATH Ultra Rice, a micronutrient delivery system that stuffs vitamins and minerals into a rice-shaped extruded rice grain made from rice flour. The grains are blended with traditional rice at 1:100 ratio and prepaed for nutrient-starved populations in daily meals.
The technology for Ultra Rice was granted to PATH, an international health nonprofit, over a decade ago. “Our commercialization strategy is to use local manufacturers in the developing world to produce grains,” said Dipika Matthias, the Ultra Rice Project Director. “We feel that it’s better to have low-cost, high-quality producers work with rice millers to encourage uptake.”
So far, PATH has licensed its technology to producers in Brazil, Columbia, and India. Brazil has two goverment-sponsored Ultra Rice trials coming up in February 2010, and a pasta manufacturer in West Bengal produces Ultra Rice for 60,000 kids as part of the Indian government’s Mid-day Meal Scheme. The Columbian city of Medellin has also used Ultra Rice in school lunches in the past.
Next up: expanding Ultra-Rice’s reach to South America. PATH also hopes that governments will begin to mandate Ultra Rice fortification by requiring rice millers to pull the Ultra Rice grain into traditional products”This isn’t a technology that dramatically changes or alters rice,” explained Matthias. “It allows us to reach populations with little alteration.”