Airee, the leading air filter manufacturer from Mongolia, and iPAGE, an innovative agri-tech firm from Bangladesh, emerged as the victors in the prestigious young entrepreneurs’ pitch contest held at the World Export Development Forum (WEDF) in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The winners were announced during the closing ceremony of the conference on 28 June.

WEDF, the flagship event of the International Trade Centre (ITC), was jointly hosted this year by the Government of Mongolia from June 26 to 28. The event attracted a distinguished panel of international judges who witnessed the live pitches of aspiring young entrepreneurs.

Oyungerel Munkhbat, representing Airee, claimed the top prize in the green business solutions category. Airee’s revolutionary 100% biodegradable wool filters effectively combat microplastic pollution, making a significant contribution to environmental sustainability.

Meanwhile, Mashrur Hossain, representing iPAGE, secured the accolade for the best land restoration initiative. iPAGE’s digital advisory services tailored to smallholder farmers have proven instrumental in boosting agricultural productivity and empowering local communities.

Additionally, Chirag M G of Brown Reed Agri Waste Innovations garnered a special mention as the winner of the public vote, with nearly 800 conference participants supporting their innovative waste management solution. The Indian company ingeniously converts coconut leaves into eco-friendly drinking straws, simultaneously creating employment opportunities for rural women.

The victorious Mongolian and Bangladeshi companies will each receive $5,000 in seed funding and valuable capacity-building support to scale up their businesses. These prize packages have been generously provided by esteemed organisations such as ITC, the G20 Global Land Initiative of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Google’s Startups for Sustainable Development programme, and the multinational law firm Sidley Austin.

The selection of the winners was based on their outstanding contributions to sustainability, circularity, and the green economy, with a particular emphasis on land restoration efforts. The evaluation process entailed a rigorous three-step procedure, involving a written application, a pitch to the finalists’ selection committee, and a captivating live presentation to a panel of judges and hundreds of participants at the WEDF stage.

Notable recognition is also extended to the other esteemed finalists who showcased their innovative ideas and initiatives on the WEDF stage. They include iPAGE (Bangladesh), Cupmena (Egypt), Sommalife (Ghana), Brown Reed Agri Waste Innovations (India), Liberty Society (Indonesia), Bôndy (Madagascar), and Airee (Mongolia).

This fourth edition of the young entrepreneurs’ pitch competition at WEDF featured a diverse array of candidates from across the globe. The national host, Mongolia, demonstrated its commitment to fostering entrepreneurship by fielding independent candidates in the highly competitive process.

From an impressive shortlist of 419 companies representing 63 countries, these exceptional finalists were carefully selected to showcase the remarkable entrepreneurial talent prevalent worldwide.

The 2023 edition of the World Export Development Forum centred around the theme of diversifying with green and digital trade. Although the conference theme held global significance, particular attention was given to exploring trade opportunities for landlocked developing countries. As the second-largest landlocked country globally, Mongolia served as an ideal host for this critical discussion.

The Government of Mongolia, led by the Office of the President, played a pivotal role in hosting this impactful conference in close partnership with the United Nations Country Team for Mongolia.