Fostering Resilience: 15 Agro Entrepreneurs Propose Impactful Solutions to Tackle Climate Challenges
Introducing Agricultural Innovation for Climate Resilience Programme’s visionary innovators, who are enabling a sustainable future for agricultural stakeholders in low- and middle-income countries as the world grapples with the challenges of climate change.
By Sanjna Sudan
The climate crisis has emerged as the greatest threat to agriculture.
It is also impacting the entire food system that enables food to reach from farms to our plates. Changes in weather patterns, extreme events, pests, and diseases pose significant challenges to the food security and livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Additionally, global food demand is expected to increase by 60 per cent in the coming years, requiring us to produce more food crops than ever before.
Recent projections suggest that agriculture will become more vulnerable to climate change in the coming decades, with unpredictable rainfall, longer dry spells, and shorter crop-growing seasons. To meet the demands of a growing population, it is crucial to encourage innovations that enhance resource efficiency in agriculture.
Resource-efficient farming plays a vital role in mitigating and adapting to climate change, ensuring the long-term sustainability of agriculture. It reduces costs, empowers rural sectors to experience growth and is also linked to food security. These methods increase crop yields, minimize waste, and conserve land, water, and other resources.
Hence, the Agricultural Innovation for Climate Resilience Programme (AICR) was launched as a collaboration between the WFP Innovation Accelerator and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) and its Fund for the Promotion of Innovation in Agriculture (i4Ag), commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The programme aims to support impactful solutions and agro entrepreneurs in low- and middle-income countries, focusing on resource-efficient farming.
We were thrilled to receive an overwhelming response, with a record-breaking 1212 applications, from 52 countries, from which we considered innovations from 14 eligible countries. After a rigorous selection process, fifteen teams have been chosen to participate in the AICR’s Bootcamp, from 10 to 14 July. These selected solutions will then have the opportunity to apply for a Sprint Programme, which connects ventures with access to the relevant funding, knowledge and networks necessary to expand their impact. On 1 August, after further refining their solutions, the teams will showcase their projects during a Virtual Pitch Event.
Learn about our selected ventures:
AQYSTA processes agricultural products for smallholder farmers using renewable energy. They have a fixed processing area powered by solar energy and a mobile unit that can be transported to farmers’ locations.
These facilities process agricultural products efficiently and in an environmentally friendly manner. By using renewable energy and bringing processing closer to farmers, AQYSTA reduces carbon emissions from crop transportation. The fixed area has solar-powered storage and processing equipment for tasks like drying, chipping, and powdering crops. The mobile unit visits central locations near farmers’ lands, such as trade centers or community centers.
WasteBot by EcoRich Solutions is a device for urban households to properly dispose of organic waste, using soil-based microorganisms to convert waste into organic fertilizer in just three days.
WasteBot eliminates methane gas and reduces the carbon footprint of households. The device can be distributed to urban households, schools, and markets for eco-friendly waste disposal. The organic fertilizer produced can then be accessed by rural smallholder farmers, offering a cost reduction of approximately 70% compared to synthetic fertilizers.
Biopower (Bebeque Bioenergy)
Biopower by Bebeque Bioenergy is a simple and modular filtration system that converts agricultural waste materials, such as rice husk, rice straw, ground husk, maize cob, maize straw, millet husk, millet straw, and other solid agricultural wastes, to generate both heat energy and power.
This team hopes to use the power generated by the Biopower system to provide different services to rice farmers, such as parboiling, drying, milling, and irrigation for their rice crops. This enables the farmers to access affordable and reliable energy for their farming activities.
Smartel Agro utilizes Internet of Things (IoT) technology to optimize hydroponics farming.
Their solution uses sensors to detect plant defects, manage risks, and enable remote cultivation of fresh produce anywhere.
Smartel Agro’s hydroponic systems are distinct due to their effective utilization of 100% of the organic nutrient content, which distinguishes it from other conventional systems.
This solution effectively cuts costs, boosts productivity, reduces water consumption, and minimizes carbon emissions. Smartel Agro targets urban farmers in cities, aiming to reduce post-harvest losses through IoT-enabled remote farm control and sensor monitoring.
aXiom Zorn has developed a data-driven solution that optimizes fertilizer usage, while simultaneously providing financial and insurance support to farmers.
Their web-based tool uses digital soil maps and farmers’ profiles to offer guidance on how much fertilizer to use for different crops and how to improve soil fertility. This helps farmers address challenges like soil acidity.
In addition, aXiom Zorn’s, ‘AZ bundle’ product includes a weather index and micro-health insurance, which are useful for enhancing farmers’ resilience to extreme weather conditions, as the insurance cover supports them in the event of drought or flood. This comprehensive approach supports farmers in making informed decisions, optimizing their agricultural practices, and mitigating financial risks.
The Netagrow system combines advanced technologies like big data, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence to deliver insights into farming operations.
They offer a solution for commercial farmers who are seeking to optimize their crop yields, improve resource management, and achieve higher quality standards. By using Netagrow’s hardware device with precision sensors, farmers will be able to collect real-time data on soil moisture, plant growth, and pest infestations. The data is then packaged into real time alerts, predictions, and actionable recommendations that are sent to users (commercial farms, government ment agencies, or service providers) allowing them to make data-driven decisions and optimize yields.
Energy Assured is a Nigeria based solution that enables low-income female farmers to access an affordable, accessible, and solar energy-based irrigation solution through their subscription-based mobile solar pump.
To overcome financial barriers, Energy Assured Nigeria encourages female smallholder farmers to form cooperatives. By pooling resources, the cost of solar technology is reduced. The mobile solar pump consists of locally made trolleys with mounted solar panels, allowing easy movement between farms and boreholes. Farmers within the cooperative can share the pump, minimizing individual investment.
This approach empowers low-income female farmers by offering a practical and sustainable solution for irrigation.
Mechro’s Chameleon toolset enables farmers in Malawi to conduct easy soil assessment with its user-friendly colour-based evaluation tool to assess soil water and nutrient levels. This is especially helpful for farmers in low literacy areas to optimize irrigation and resource usage.
The Chameleon tool is simple to install, calibrate, and extract information from, ensuring accessibility and practicality in farmers’ daily operations. Additionally, the tools simplify data collection and transmission to online servers. The resulting colour patterns are valuable for government and stakeholder evaluation, facilitating the development and planning of irrigation schemes.
Urban Greens has developed an innovative aquaponics concept. The solution offers a standardized aquaponics micro-farm with solar power back-up and Internet of Things (IoT) technology, ensuring reliable food production in urban areas.
The proposed aquaponic systems (i.e. a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic creatures supplies the nutrients for plants grown hydroponically) have the impressive capacity to yield approximately fifteen kilograms of fish and around 200 leafy plants (or equivalent crops) each month.
The primary objective of Urban Greens is to make these micro-farms accessible to urban growers, promoting food access and stimulating economic activity within cities. By leveraging climate-smart technology, they prioritize environmentally friendly methods of urban food production. They collaborate closely with urban growers, serving as their clients, to sell the produce and generate revenues exceeding USD 150 per month.
Irri-kit by IntelliSys is a complete set of irrigation support equipment consisting of soil sensors, solenoid valves, and a solar power system. When connected to an existing irrigation system, Irri-kit automates the precise delivery of water to the fields and can be easily plugged into an existing system without the need for major changes.
The IntelliSys team is currently developing an upgraded version of the irri-kit, called irri-kit v.2. This new version will build on the kit’s portability and versatility by incorporating wireless soil moisture sensing, data communication, aggregation, and analytics using GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) technology. With this communication innovation, farmers will be able to access historical data and make informed decisions about managing resources like water.
Thur Biotech offers a cost-effective Biocontrol agent that boosts crop productivity and allows farmers to cultivate previously unusable land.
This biofertilizer, made from locally available materials, effectively neutralizes soil acidity, improves water retention, and enhances nutrient accumulation. Its affordability makes it accessible to smallholder farmers, providing them with a sustainable solution for improved yields and revitalized soils.
Vermi-Farm Initiative’s Solutions revolutionizes smallholder farming with three key offerings: low-cost Smart Greenhouses, a digital waste management system, and a green financing solution.
Their Smart Greenhouses provide an affordable solution for farmers, incorporating aquaponics or aeroponics technologies to optimize water usage and minimize pest and disease risks, resulting in improved crop yields and livelihoods. The ‘Vermi-Farm Green’ solution introduces a digital waste management system that efficiently converts organic waste into biofertilizers through automated processes. By minimizing waste and enhancing soil health, farmers can further enhance their crop productivity.
Furthermore, to support small-scale farmers, Vermi-Farm Initiative’s Solutions offers the ‘Vermi-Farm Adapt Finance’ product. This innovative green financing solution utilizes a table banking economic model, providing accessible credit and financial services to enable farmers to thrive and grow their operations.
FarmerLifeline enables smallholder farmers to detect crop pests and diseases early on, using FarmerLifeline’s patented solar-powered device.
This device identifies agricultural challenges and sends farmers SMS recommendations for locally-available, carbon-negative, and environmentally friendly fertilizers, effectively combating the detected pests and diseases. With a scanning radius of 600 meters, each device can serve two to three farmers simultaneously. By detecting pests at their earliest stages, the device promptly alerts nearby county government agricultural extension officers, enabling them to take immediate action. This proactive approach ensures crop protection and timely intervention, leading to a successful harvest for farmers.
Agritech Analytics offers an advanced tool for crop and soil management that combines Artificial Intelligence powered satellite analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) soil and crop sensors.
They aim to support small-scale farmers by providing them with mobile access to detect crop pests and diseases promptly, minimizing damage and losses. Additionally, the tool helps farmers assess essential soil health parameters, enabling accurate determination of farm inputs like fertilizers, water, labour, herbicides, and pesticides. This optimization reduces crop waste, lowers input costs, and increases overall farm yield. Moreover, the tool provides a comprehensive 21-day weather forecast feature for better planning.
ANKA, based in Madagascar, specializes in building and operating mini-grids to provide electricity to rural villages. Their focus is on enhancing agricultural productivity through their mini-grid power irrigation solution and their groundnut oil production facility.
The mini-grid power irrigation supports farmers in improving their agricultural output, while the groundnut oil production facility creates new opportunities for farmers and supports the local economy by adding value to groundnuts. ANKA’s approach utilizes renewable energy sources and provides value-addition opportunities, aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of rural farmers and increase their income.