Industries in Depth

12 climate-smart technologies that could transform the way we grow food

Farmers have built up generations of knowledge on the care and use of land, climate change, and adaptive resilience.

Farmers have built up generations of knowledge on the care and use of land, climate change, and adaptive resilience. Image: moa Technology

Bibi la Luz Gonzalez
Founder, Eat Better Wa’ik
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  • Despite their central role in global food systems, many farmers and smallholders live in poverty, suffer from malnutrition and are landless.
  • Farmers have built up generations of knowledge on the care and use of land, climate change, and adaptive resilience.
  • UpLink's Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge has selected 12 Top Innovators - entrepreneurs who are putting food, agriculture and climate at the forefront of their business model.

Farmers are at the heart of the transformation of the world’s food systems, but they - especially smallholder farmers and subsistence farmers - are often under-represented. Many of them live in poverty, suffer from malnutrition and are landless.

However, there is so much that we can learn from farmers all over the world. Agriculture has been practiced for 12,000 years, and farmers have built up generations and generations of knowledge on the care and use of land, climate change, and adaptive resilience. This should be extremely significant, as 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and the sector represents 35% of global jobs.

Agriculture, especially large-scale agriculture, accounts for more than 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, 80% of tropical deforestation and biodiversity loss, and 70% of freshwater withdrawals. We therefore have three urgent challenges that we need to solve to create better livelihoods for farmers and, efficient agriculture and carbon sequestration, all whilst promoting food and nutrition security. This is why climate-smart agriculture approaches are extremely important.

The Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge

To respond to current challenges and highlight entrepreneurial solutions to these problems, UpLink launched the Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge during the Annual Meeting of the New Champions (AMNC23), a call for solutions in four focus areas: knowledge, skills, and education; resource efficiency and sustainability; inclusive technology; and innovative financing.

A total of 246 solutions from around the world were submitted to the UpLink platform, demonstrating the high quality and quantity of entrepreneurs putting food, agriculture and climate at the forefront of their business model.

After a careful review and selection processes evaluating their solution, business model, progress, management team, gender balance, socio-economic and environmental impact, scalability, investability and diversity, here are the 12 winning solutions for the Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge. All will now join UpLink’s community of Top Innovators and receive the resources, expertise and connections they need to scale their ventures.

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1. Alkama: uses a biological crop treatment called FITS (Factory-In-The-Soil), a complete liquid ecosystem of soil microbiology designed to produce high-yield-crops that are cost-efficient for farmers without fertilizer, pesticides, or fungicides: but instead uses fungi, bacteria, nematodes and protozoa in the production of plants, wheat and barley to overcome crop stress. It captures carbon in the soil and has the potential to sequester CO2.

2. AMAATI: the business joins and trains rural women, who are in a vulnerable landless state, to cultivate, process, market and strategize around the production and consumption of fonio. This indigenous grain known for its drought-resistant and rich nutritional properties, is turned into multiple food products and flour, is not only market-ready, but promotes a value chain approach to adaptation in agriculture.

3. AMINI: is building a superpowered last-mile environmental and vegetative data infrastructure for smallholder farmers in Africa, using a combination of satellites, AI, and machine learning. The start-up equips farmers and businesses with crop management, insurance, and alternative credit scoring through regenerative agriculture for greater economic inclusivity.

4. BillionCarbon: turns food waste into liquid bio-fertilizer using black soldier fly larvae and has developed a nutrient mining technology that uses micro-climate controlled bioreactors. It treats soil regeneration with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, phosphate and potash, delivers better yields and sequesters carbon at a low cost for the user.

5. Dvara E-Registry: is an e-registry that connects smallholder farmers for better access to institutional credit facilities. It created Doordrishti, a digital platform that uses remote sensing to assess crop health; and Khetscore, an analytical tool to measure farmers’ credit access based on their digitized field data.

6. Instacrops: helps farmers maximize their crop yield, save water and energy in agriculture while minimizing their environmental impact through a virtual advisor model that connects previously processed information and translates it into easy-to-comprehend and applicable information in real-time. It empowers farmers to operate more efficiently with Precision Agriculture as a Service (PAaaS) so that farmers master the adoption of advanced agriculture technology, as well as improve nutritious food security through fresh produce and care for the planet.

7. Kheyti: is a modular greenhouse-in-a-box, a one-stop-shop solution for greenhouse cultivation whose inclusive and affordable design helps smallholder farmers cultivate in a way that is specific to their region, including shading, drip irrigation, and insect netting to protect the crops from pests. Compared to traditional farmers, Kheyti farmers grow seven times as much food using one-fifth of the water, cutting costs, and saving precious resources. Using Kheyti’s solution, farmers experience 100-150% increase in their income, helping them forge a path out of poverty.

8. moa Technology: is an R&D crop protection company, integrated by scientists and spun out of the University of Oxford, dedicated to finding a new generation of safe and effective herbicides to help farmers globally to produce high-quality food. As current herbicides have encountered greater resistance, new ones are urgently needed. The company's plant-led platforms search for such compounds with new modes of action (MOAs) to tackle herbicide-resistant weeds.

9. Spowdi: is a green-tech company that is driving solar-powered mobile drip irrigation systems. This supports farmers to increase yields, reduce water usage, and reduce carbon dependencies. In addition to the Spowdi Mobile Pro equipment, the start-up also connects farmers to a Smart Farming app, which provides ag-climate knowledge, tracks progress, and generates data on their impact. It also emphasizes partnerships, especially with or between NGOs, local communities, and financial institutions.

10. Unibaio: specializes in using natural molecules, chitin/chitosan, and nanotechnological particulates for more sustainable agrochemical and bio-input formulations. This results in a reduction in the doses of toxic active ingredients in traditional agrochemicals by 80%. Here, agricultural producers adapt and adopt a more efficient and environmentally friendly agro-input in their work.

11. UpTrade: also known as Goats for Water, enables communities and smallholder farmers to use their own resources to purchase assets that improve their quality of life, thus making them affordable and accessible. For many farmers, their main source of currency and exchange is still heavily reliant on livestock. This digital platform enables the exchange of healthy, vetted animals from off-grid farming communities, especially women and girls, to access clean water and, energy and farming inputs. (Pakistan, Female-led).

12. VIA - Virtual Irrigation Academy: has developed a suite of user-friendly, low-cost and accurate colour-based tools designed for smallholder farmers and irrigators to manage their water and fertilizer usage more effectively and sustainably. This is known as their flagship Chameleon system: buried in the ground, a sensor illuminates in different colours depending on the need of the soil. This allows the user to understand how to troubleshoot, repair, and maintain crops.

Meet the 12 winners of the Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge Image: UpLink

The Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge was run in partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Economy and Planning, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture and supported by Barka Fund, Cacao Capital, Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution KSA, Efeca, Federation of Saudi Chambers KSA, INOKS Capital, Kilimo, NEOM, Nestlé, Roots Ventures, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), World Food Forum (facilitated by FAO).

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Industries in DepthFood and WaterSocial Innovation
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