HZero Innovation Demo Day in Colombia

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WFP’s Regional Innovation Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean showcases regional innovators in Bogotá.

By Maria Fernanda Betancourt and Heath Morrell

On July 6, 2023 the World Food Programme’s Regional Innovation Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean, HZero, hosted a Demo Day recognizing 10 inspiring innovations from across Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Peru.

The wide range of innovative solutions demonstrated on that day included a blockchain-powered digital and financial inclusion platform for smallholder farmers, a social enterprise that converts waste into currency, exchangeable for food and services, and a network of rural and indigenous women drone pilots who contribute to the generation of climatic information in disaster situations, among others.

Watch Jessika Camargo explaining the importance and impact of HZero Demo Day here:

A screenshot of Jessika Camargo explaining the importance of HZero Demo Day.
Jessika Camargo explains the importance and impact of HZero Demo Day.

Why a Demo Day?

WFP’s Innovation Hub in Colombia hosted their Demo Day event to commemorate the conclusion of the Acelera HZero innovation programme, and to exhibit the impactful solutions of the 10 participating teams. The innovators inspired the audience with their ideas and shared their unique journeys through innovation. Furthermore, they seized a significant opportunity to connect with impact investors and potential partners who may be instrumental in scaling their social impact efforts.

“WFP’s support has been significantly helpful. We were able to directly enter new territories. Participating in this innovation programme forced us to rethink ourselves and our innovation. We have learnt, for instance, about baseline indicators, food security trends, and how to sustainably measure our social impact. Also, we created a partnership to offer a highly nutritious product developed by Global Meals, another project that participated in the Innovation Bootcamp,” said Olga Bocarejo, founder of Bancalimentos.

As part of the event, a fireside chat took place with Government and social impact leaders who shared their perspectives and vision for impact investment to catalyze innovations for a Zero Hunger region. Insights were shared by Andrés Campos, Executive — Vice President of Capital and Digital Economy for iNNpulsa; Paula Delgadillo, Projects Director for Colombia, SVX Social Venture Connexion; and Beatriz Ospina, International Membership Leader and Impact Programmes Coordinator for Latimpacto.

Learn more about the development of the Acelera HZero programme:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U59XP_L0Heo&ab_channel=

The Innovation Journey

For the participating innovators, the journey to the Demo Day started back in October 2022, when HZero launched a Call for Applications for the Acelera HZero innovation programme. In a challenging time marked by rising food insecurity in the region, this initiative aims to support the acceleration of innovative and bold projects that contribute to the eradication of hunger across the region.

More than 200 projects applied to Acelera HZero, with 21 innovative projects shortlisted to participate in an Innovation Bootcamp and present their solutions at a subsequent Pitch Event.

Participating teams engaged in workshops and mentoring sessions aimed at enhancing their solutions and expanding their impact through innovation methodologies and scaling strategies. The projects spanned numerous countries and included community innovators, social entrepreneurs, startups, and internal WFP project teams.

Following the Pitch Event, the top ten innovations from six countries in the region were invited to take part in an intensive acceleration program, running from January to July 2023.

Key benefits for innovators in the Acelera HZero innovation program included tailored technical support, mentoring, access to WFP’s network of experts and partners, and up to US$50,000 in funding.

“This experience allowed us to triple our impact. We used to feel out of place, wanting to create a social impact while simultaneously running an enterprise, but it’s great to know that we are not alone and that there are many like us committed to the social cause,” said Robinson Lopez, Founder of Agros.

The HZero Demo Day represented the culmination of this valuable acceleration program. The 10 winning innovations that participated in the 2023 Demo Day included Afo Acuaponia, Agros, Bancalimentos, CliMapp, Enparalelo, Ento Piruw, La Divina Papaya, Nutrivida, Pilotas Resilientes, and Siembraco. These new ideas and social businesses collectively impacted over 85,000 people in the region during the Acelera HZero acceleration phase.

Learn more about the ten participating innovations

Innovators at the HZero Demo Day in Bogotá, 6 July 2023. Photo: WFP/Paola Campos

Afo Acuaponia, Colombia: Urban agricultural systems for the cultivation of fish and vegetables at fair prices and in a sustainable way, using ancestral knowledge and technology.

Agros, Perú: Digital and financial inclusion platform that connects rural producers to secure agricultural information, products and services through a phone call and the use of voice as a password.

Bancalimentos, Colombia: A social enterprise that converts waste into digital currency to be exchanged for food and services, improving food security of vulnerable communities.

CliMapp, Colombia: Digital early warning systems powered by ancestral knowledge at community level to reduce the impacts of climate change.

Enparalelo, Cuba: Agroecological food production in urban areas for self-supply, commercialization and transformation of high nutritional products.

Ento Piruw, Perú: Bioconversion of organic waste, using insect biotechnology, to obtain protein for balanced animal feed.

La Divina Papaya, Ecuador: Social enterprise that works with agroecological women farmers for the production and commercialization of healthy foods, including edible flowers, teas, infusions, vegetables and seasonings.

Nutrivida, Costa Rica: Social enterprise that produces highly nutritional and fortified food for mass consumption for vulnerable populations.

Pilotas Resilientes, WFP Guatemala: Network of certified female drone pilots from rural and indigenous communities, supporting resilience-building activities and disaster response through rapid generation of climatic and topographic information.

Siembraco, Colombia: Tech solution that connects smallholder farmers and consumers by aligning supply and demand.

This innovation programme was implemented in collaboration with local ecosystem players, including; Impact Hub Medellín, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, iNNpulsa Colombia, Tetra Pack, Sodexo, and Fundación Alpina.

Watch the full HZero Demo Day recording: https://www.youtube.com/live/7NAHCqzEV_E?feature=share&t=839

HZero is WFP’s Regional Innovation Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean with a focus on the promotion of disruptive and transformative innovations for achieving Zero Hunger in the region. HZero supports innovation within WFP operations as well as strengthening local innovation ecosystems in Food Security and Nutrition, building alliances between key stakeholders, catalyzing efforts and capacities, and facilitating resources. Launched in 2021, HZero is managed by the WFP Country Office in Bogotá, Colombia.

Visit www.innovation4nutrition.org/acelera-hzero, https://innovation.wfp.org/latin-america-and-caribbean or contact HZero directly via email: hzero.lac@wfp.org

WFP’s Regional Hub for Latin America and the Caribbean is one of many Innovation Hubs and Units in WFP’s Innovation Network, established to support WFP Innovators in the field.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator sources, supports and scales high-potential solutions to end hunger worldwide from its base in Munich, Germany. The Accelerator provides WFP colleagues, entrepreneurs, start-ups, companies, and non-governmental organizations with access to funding, mentorship, hands-on support, and WFP’s global field operations.

Visit http://innovation.wfp.org, subscribe to our e-newsletter and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and YouTube.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.