The Acara Innovation Fellowship provides up to $5,000 and intensive mentoring and training  for 8–12 individual students and student teams annually. Students use fellowship funding to pilot their ideas for impact ventures and/or to intern with organizations where they can develop their knowledge and skills in order to have impact in the future.

The 2018 Acara Fellows are:


Gold Winner, Crowd Favorite Award: Depósito de Confianza

Robyn Thompson, College of Liberal Arts, BA Political Science 2020 (Project initially designed in GCC 5005: Global Venture Design)

Depósito de Confianza provides community-based silos to farmers in rural Nicaragua to increase farmer income security by allowing farmers to store their grain when the market price is lowest and sell their product when it is highest.

Silver Winner: Educowtion

Abigail Knoble, College of Biological Sciences, BS Biology 2019; Maria Soroka, College of Biological Sciences, BS Neuroscience 2018 (Project initially designed in GCC 5003: Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues)

Through community assessments, Knoble and Soroka hope to hear from the semi-nomadic communities of the Karamoja region in Uganda on the problems they face in regards to reducing the malnutrition of their children. In close coordination with the community, Educowtion proposes to facilitate the subsidization of dairy cows to be kept in proximity in primary schools year round to ensure that children have access to milk daily.

Bronze Winner: uGIS

Clarissa Cole, College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences, BS Environmental Science, Policy, and Management 2018; Dylan Duerre, CBS, BS Genetics, Cell Biology and Development 2019; Katharine Young, CBS, BS Microbiology 2019 (Project initially designed in GCC 5003: Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues)

This collaborative and interdisciplinary solution focuses on complex environmental problems through a geospatial lens by providing GIS information to underserved communities in Karamoja, Uganda thus enabling them the technology to effectively adjust to the detrimental effects of climate change.

Vetiver Solutions

Jesse Abelson, UMN Graduate; Dalton Schutte, UMN Graduate; Leeore Levistein, College of Biological Sciences, BS Genetics/Cell Biology 2018 (Project initially developed in GCC 5003: Seeking Solutions to Global Health Issues and further developed in GCC 5501: Knowledge to Impact)

Vetiver Solutions’ vision is to grow a poverty-free Haiti through a tropical grass commonly known as vetiver. More specifically, they aim to incentivize communities to develop both short- and long-term sustainable agricultural practices by providing a consistent cash flow for vetiver processed in an environmentally conscious way. Their innovation and dedication has led them to win silver in the 2017 Acara Challenge among other awards such as the Institute on the Environment Mini Grant, the Social Impact Award, and the fourth place award of $25,000 in the E-Fest Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge.

Shakti Dena

Sruti Kalatoor, College of Biological Sciences, BS Neuroscience 2018 (Project further developed in GCC 5501: Knowledge to Impact)

With an alarmingly high rate of new cervical cancer cases in India, Shakti Dena (meaning empowerment in Hindi) aims to reduce both the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer through educative dialogue in organized Women Cervin’ Women Health Fairs in middle income communities. This venture focuses on the preventability of cervical cancer through the empowerment of cross-generational community awareness and education.


Gold Winner: Aelios Technology

Sourav Patel, College of Science and Engineering, PhD student, Electrical Engineering 2019; Saurav Talukdar, CSE, PhD Candidate, Mechanical Engineering 2018; Shreyas Bhaban, CSE, PhD Candidate, Electrical Engineering 2018; Atul Fotedar, Carlson School of Management, MBA candidate 2019

Aelios Technology works to mitigate the adverse effects of power scarcity in the healthcare sector to help save lives in developing economies by their Intelligent Plug for Devices (IPlugD). The development of these intelligent switch devices was done in hopes of providing a catalyst for change in developing countries by directing the minimal existing power towards critical services. Aelios Technology has received additional recognition in 2018 Cleantech UP Midwest Showcase.   

Silver Winner: OneMoringa

Isaac Giron, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Masters of Development Practice 2018 (Project further developed in Acara Venture Impact Design Workshop)

In a developing country where the lack of food and money is the problem, moringa oleifera, or the Miracle Tree, might be the answer. OneMoringa envisions a world in which this fast growing and drought-resistant tree is used as more than just product in cosmetics, but as a product that provides the needed income and nutrition to farming communities in the developing world.

Bronze Winner: Wings of the Night

Tyler Vogel, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Master of Development Practice 2019 (Project further developed in Acara Venture Impact Design Workshop)

Vogel aims to deplete mosquito-borne transmission rates utilizing natural predation from bats while empowering the local community by providing education and reducing financial burdens. By combating these widespread, devastating diseases, such as malaria, with the placement of bat housing complexes dear rural communities, Wings of the Night hopes to consequently reduce the prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases in a natural, sustainable manner.

One Health Finland

Heidi Vesterinen, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, MPH Public Health Practice 2018 (Project further developed in GCC 5501: Knowledge to Impact)

One Health Finland applies multidisciplinary tools, such as OH-SMART toolkit, in order to provide a structured and shared space to effectively address the world’s grand challenges. This interdisciplinary connection of individuals from various backgrounds aims to provide a structured foundation to equip these groups with the tools they need to effectively enact change in a world that has many changes to make.


Hannah Rusch, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, MS Sustainable Agriculture Systems, 2019 (Project further developed in GCC 5501: Knowledge to Impact)

After the displacement and struggle of many rural families due to political instability, the coffee industry of Nariño, Colombia is providing hope and livelihood to its community. Through the commercialization of their Colombian coffee to U.S. consumers, Asoprocaffe uses direct sales strategies to support an association of small-scale coffee producers within this impacted community.

Read about past Acara Innovation Fellows here.