Blog The Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge: Innovative solutions provide the needed impetus for agricultural and food systems change

Finalists pitched their inspiring innovations to an expert Selection Committee and global audience. 

On Monday 15 November, as part of the 2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress, the Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP) hosted the Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge. The Challenge was a global competition targeting early-stage innovations from or working in developing countries that help small-scale farmers and food companies increase production effectiveness, competitiveness, and resilience while conserving agrobiodiversity.   

Agriculture is both a major victim and a major driver of climate change. However, with agriculture alone responsible for 20 percent of global GHG emissions, it is also a crucial part of the solution. Following the recent confirmation at the COP26 summit of the commitment to keep global temperatures under 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need innovative solutions in the agri-food tech space now more than ever.  

The Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge provided just that. The response to the Challenge was astounding—and hugely competitive—with just 10 finalists shortlisted from almost 350 applications spanning 76 countries and a livestream attendance of more than 1,000 attendees that day. Each finalist was given three minutes to pitch their innovation before facing a five-minute Q&A with the expert Selection Committee, formed of representatives from the Challenge’s partner organizations.  

The pitches and Q&As provided the opportunity to become acquainted with some of the groundbreaking innovations looking to tackle some of our biggest challenges. It is these radical new technologies and ideas that harness the most potential. 

The initiative was possible thanks to partnerships with leading organizations offering a selection of awards, with IFAD contributing USD $10,000 in equity-free grants, CIHEAM Bari providing two scholarships worth USD $25,000 and tuition support for a master’s degree, and IITIITA BiP, and The Lexicon offering a range of expert mentoring, partnerships, business analysis and support, and technological due diligence.  

We are proud to announce SeaSoilution, NovFeed, and Cloud Pads as the winners of the CGIAR x Rockstart Investor Readiness Program. CGIAR has partnered with leading VC-Accelerator Rockstart to offer the comprehensive program. Throughout, the teams will spend the coming months undergoing a range of assessments, tailor-made workshops, and matched mentoring with industry experts to help determine a clear growth plan, expand their networks, and develop the necessary skills to take their innovations to the next level. 

"We are ecstatic to be a part of the CGIAR x Rockstart Investor Readiness Program, which will aid NovFeed's global expansion,” said Diana Orembe, Co-founder and CEO of NovFeed. “Everything, from the rigorous selection process to the final showcase, was designed to create amazing connections that generate new opportunities between startups and the broader ecosystem of corporates and investors in the AgriFood industry. We owe a debt of appreciation to Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT for opening a door for NovFeed that would have been nearly impossible to open without their assistance."  

The pitch day was the culmination of months of planning and hard work, and showcased both the range of the potential problems as well as the innovative solutions looking to tackle them. 

“Addressing the urgency of Waste in the Agrifood sector is one of the pressing issues in the ecological crisis we are facing” highlighted Sarah El Harouny, Co-founder and CEO at Cloud Pads. “The Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge really served as a catalyst to identify these issues and highlight the innovators that are courageous enough to tackle them. We at Cloud are still buzzing from all the inspiration we took away from this event, and are even more excited to solidify our vision through the help of the Rockstart Investor Readiness Program!” 

“The Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge was an amazing opportunity to present our solution in front of a large audience of experts and involved individuals” said Constantin Weberpals, Project Lead at SeaSoilution. “We are extremely excited to participate in the Investor Readiness Program by CGIAR and Rockstart, as we are convinced that it will accelerate our business and most importantly the impact we can create. CGIAR and Rockstart are strong partners with a unique network that will help us to turn the Sargassum plague into an opportunity!” 

The Challenge provided an amazing opportunity to hear from some of the most promising and inspiring innovations, all leading the charge to make a difference when our world when it needs it most. It is truly exciting to see what is next for these innovations and how the awards they have received will help to accelerate their growth. 



The Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge would not have been possible without the generous support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.  

The Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP) is an Alliance/CGIAR venture space harnessing science and entrepreneurialism to drive the discovery of groundbreaking solutions to pressing global challenges. 

Watch the recording

See the 10 finalists of the Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge