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Securing Water for Food set to announce new agtech competition at GFIA

The USAID initiative will launch a new competition for innovators with tech solutions that address the challenge of limited water for food production in developing countries.    

Securing Water for Food (SWFF), a USAID initiative in collaboration with the government of Sweden and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, is launching a new competition in the search for innovative technologies that can help address limited water resources for food production in developing countries.

The initiative will launch the new competition at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) in Abu Dhabi next month.

The competition, which in the past has assessed over 500 applications, is a great tool for private investors surveying the sector, according to Ku McMahan, team lead at SWFF.

“The water-for-food space has both immense growth and investment potential, but also is beyond the reach of most investors: the companies operate in markets that are foreign to most investors, and the technologies they employ are beyond the technical reach of most investors as well,” McMahan told Agri Investor.

The SWFF programme screens all entries by effectively doing technical and market due diligence, and a panel of technology experts, start-up investors and academic sustainability experts, will make the final decisions.

“From an investor perspective, getting to know the SWFF winners is a great opportunity to get right to the cream of the crop without needing the technical capacity and due diligence legwork to get there,” he added. “We only select verified technologies that are either ready for testing and adaptation for new markets, or have the potential to scale and are ready for commercial growth – our cohort offers a variety of fits for investors of any size.”

Applicants that present very early-stage technologies needing development – classed as stage one – can receive up to $500,000 over the 3-year life of the award. And established innovations that have developed a viable business model but need commercialising – stage two – can receive up to $3 million, over a 3-year period.

There will be between 15 and 30 winners, according to McMahan.

This is the third time SWFF has launched a competition. The first round awarded money to 17 applicants, while the second round, the Desal Prize, awarded one first prize and two runner ups.

Winners of the first round include Driptech, an affordable drip irrigation system using innovative laser punching technology that ensures uniform water application at the root zone of all crops in a field, and FutureWater, which has developed easy-to-operate drones to provide farmers with real time information on soil and crops.

At the GFIA event, SWFF will showcase some of these innovators in collaboration with Powering Ag, a sister initiative in USAID’s Grand Challenge for Development. These innovators will also do “TED-like talks” on their innovations during the event, according to McMahan.

“GFIA is one of the most influential gatherings of actors in sustainable agriculture, and the perfect place for our innovators to expand their networks and highlight their technologies as part of the future of sustainable agriculture,” said McMahan.