Press and News Sustainable Cocoa Innovation Challenge for Colombia: Supporting innovation in the cocoa value chain for forest conservation and peacebuilding

Bogotá, 04 August 2023. The Sustainable Cocoa Innovation Challenge for Colombia has been launched as the result of the joint effort between CGIAR research initiatives AgriLAC Resiliente and Mitigate+ and the project “Implementing Sustainable Agricultural and Livestock Systems for Simultaneous Targeting of Forest Conservation for Climate Change Mitigation (REDD+) and Peacebuilding in Colombia,” otherwise known as the IKI-SLUS Project. 

The CGIAR Accelerate for Impact Platform and Rockstart power this innovation challenge with the aim of providing know-how and network to entrepreneurs in Latin America who are working to ensure the cocoa industry contributes to forest conservation and peacebuilding.

Are you an innovator working on a solution that is applicable to the cocoa value chain in Colombia? Applications are open until 31 August 2023.

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The business opportunity is enormous, with Colombia being one of the top ten cocoa-producing nations, yielding over 69,000 tons of cocoa beans in 2021 alone. The local demand is robust given the fundamental role of cocoa as a staple food domestically. This presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs, business leaders, and innovators to contribute to the development of this industry and embrace sustainable practices, such as agroforestry, which combines cocoa production with tree planting to increase biodiversity, protect soil from erosion, and provide natural shade.

"For us at Rockstart, there are three industries of utmost importance: technology, energy, and agriculture. We believe that in these three industries, there is a tremendous opportunity to transform and solve current societal problems. That's why, after working with hundreds of entrepreneurs in Latin America and various industries, we see a great opportunity in the agriculture sector, specifically in Cocoa," states Felipe Santamaria, Managing Director of Rockstart Latam.

The Sustainable Cocoa Innovation Challenge for Colombia is seeking cutting-edge solutions to address priority areas within the cocoa industry. These areas include promoting sustainable and ethical sourcing of cocoa, ensuring transparency and traceability in cocoa bean processing, fostering sustainable farming practices, adding value to cocoa products through innovative processing, improving market access, and empowering cocoa farmers.

"We know that innovations are out there to lower greenhouse gas emissions. What we want is to scale innovations for climate change mitigation that can also drive an increase in incomes and foster peace, which in the case of the Sustainable Cocoa Innovation Challenge, would be along the cocoa value chain in Colombia. Our experience under the Sustainable Land Use Project suggests to us that if we can scale such innovations, we can help Colombia become an active player in markets that demand sustainable commodities and meet its sustainable development commitments," says Augusto Castro, Senior Scientist and Leader of the low-emission food systems research theme at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and leader of the IKI-SLUS Project in Colombia.

Example solutions include supply chain technologies, food processing and packaging innovations, new sales channels such as online trading platforms, efficient irrigation technologies, fertilizer management practices, circular economy and waste management solutions, farm management software, advisory services, water management, small-scale irrigation systems, and education tech platforms.

Eligible applicants should have a minimum viable product or proof of concept, verified commercial value, and evidence of user or customer validation. The business model must include an inclusive strategy for smallholder farmers, women, and youth. The innovative solutions should primarily benefit small-scale farmers, food processing companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, consumers, youth, and/or women. Ventures should be for-profit or social enterprises, locally rooted in Colombia, and demonstrate commercial viability or a clear path to profitability. NGOs, large corporations, and consultants are not eligible. Additionally, applicants should exhibit a diverse, non-discriminatory, gender-balanced culture.

The Sustainable Cocoa Innovation Challenge offers selected applicants an array of valuable resources and connections, including access to SLUS project documents, a fully sponsored acceleration program combining business training and technical assistance, on-the-ground experimentation and pilot testing in Colombia, support in grant raising and sales pitch preparation, an equity-free grant of up to $15,000 each for two sustainable winners with scaling plans, networking and technical assistance from CGIAR scientists and industry partners, mentorship from local Colombian entrepreneurs, exposure to potential investors, and support to accelerate go-to-market and growth.

“CGIAR's Accelerate for Impact Platform leads the way in forging innovative partnership models, mainstreaming evidence-based solutions through market mechanisms, and nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs. The Sustainable Cocoa Innovation Challenge is the result of a concerted effort among diverse partners, unified by a shared vision to create meaningful synergies for a greater impact along the cocoa value chain”, says Gianpiero Menza, Senior Manager at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT.

Apply now to be part of this transformative journey. The deadline for applications is 31 August 2023 at 23:59 CET.