Global AgriInno Challenge 2024 Open Call

Inclusive AI and emerging technologies for agrifood systems transformation

Duration of the Call: 20 June – 1 August 2024 

 

Global AgriInno Challenge 2024 is officially calling for proposals!

As a global platform for youth agripreneurs and innovators, Global AgriInno Challenge continues to showcase and foster cutting-edge digital agricultural talent. Following the success of our previous editions held in 2020 till 2022, we are thrilled to announce that Global AgriInno Challenge 2024 will once again provide a vibrant platform for startups to exchange ideas, enrich their knowledge, and establish valuable connections with a global network of collaborators.

Are you passionate about addressing the challenges in the digital agriculture field? Are you eager to showcase your groundbreaking ideas to the world? Do you aspire to engage with a diverse mentorship network supported by UN agencies, governments, leading investors, and academic experts?

Seize this opportunity and submit your application as a team by 1 August 2024 (24:00 CEST).

The theme of Global AgriInno Challenge 2024 is “Inclusive AI and emerging technologies for agrifood systems transformation”. 6 teams will be selected to participate in the final pitch event, scheduled to take place in China on 26 September 2024, with all related expenses covered. The top teams will be awarded seed funding to further their innovation ventures and win the chance to present at the FAO Science and Innovation Forum 2024.

Review the guidelines and register your team today! If you have any inquiries or require further information, please contact:

· global_agriinno_challenge@zju.edu.cn,

· and copy digital-innovation@fao.org.

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1. Background

FAO’s latest forecasts food outlook on biannual report global food markets point to increased production and higher stocks for several basic foodstuffs. However, global food production remains susceptible to shocks arising from weather conditions, geopolitical tensions, and policies. These factors could disrupt the delicate balance between supply and demand, impacting global food security.

The agrifood system significantly impact climate change, contributing 30% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. In turn, climate change affects environmental, social, economic and agrifood systems across the globe. Low-carbon transformation is the only way for human science to respond to climate change and achieve sustainable and green development. Digital technology plays an important role in helping to achieve these objectives. Adopting digital technologies creates more resilient, sustainable, inclusive and future-oriented food systems, thereby contributing to the achieving of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and remote sensing provide continuous monitoring of crops, soil moisture levels, and environmental conditions, allowing for timely interventions and precise resource allocation. Geo-AI technologies such as GPS-guided machinery and variable rate application systems enable farmers to optimize inputs, minimizing waste and maximize productivity. Applying Big Data and AI integrates these technologies into comprehensive management systems, fostering sustainable practices and enhancing the resilience of agricultural production.

Furthermore, innovators and start-ups are rapidly growing and penetrated the digital agriculture market and applying latest digital technologies such as AI, IoT, remote sensing, etc. into their digital solutions and services. Developing locally tailor-made solutions in local context and local needs by innovators will make digital solutions democratized, accessible and available for the smallholders. Start-ups, SMEs, county and rural areas, small farmers, youth, and women will play important roles as beneficiaries of digital technologies in the effort to combat climate change in the future. 

FAO is facilitating the capacity development and enhancement of digital skills and digital innovation capabilities among youth and women agripreneurs through a learning program-based assessment and gap analysis to respond to the real need and context, but also digital capabilities for policymakers, various types of training institutions, and relevant agribusiness stakeholders.

Founded in 1987, Zhejiang University (ZJU) is one of China's oldest, most selective, and most prestigious institutions. As an active contributor to rural development, ZJU has made significant efforts to drive the transformation and upgrading of the agricultural industry, support small-scale farmers, boost agricultural productivity, increase farmers' income, alleviate poverty, promote rural revitalization, and achieve agricultural sustainability. Extensive research on digital agriculture and rural development has been conducted to drive theoretical and technological innovation, enhance successful approaches and experiences, and support effective policymaking and mechanism design. Conversely, ZJU benefits from extensive industry resources as well as close partnership with both government and non-governmental groups, establishing a network of professional collaborations in academia, industry and government.

2. Purposes

Aimed at identifying, accelerating and scaling-up youth-led innovative business models and innovative solutions for agrifood system issues, FAO and Zhejiang University have co-organized the Global AgriInno Challenge 2024 to achieve SDG 1 (No Poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities). The Challenge will implement the following actions:

a) transforming rural development through innovative and digital solutions under the framework of the Four Betters (better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life);

b) sharing the latest information, knowledge, and best practices in rural digital transformation innovations, digital technologies, and business models;

c) building an enabling environment through Public-Private Partnerships and co-creation opportunities with diverse participants, practitioners, and experts;

d) engaging and empowering young agripreneurs and innovators to tackle development challenges through FAO and partners’ global networks with continuous support during and after the innovation challenge.

3. Benefits for participants

The selected teams chosen to attend the Innovation for Good and Pitch Event in China will benefit from:

· Two-day technical support for each team’s solution through an approach of co-creation with other young agripreneurs/innovators and experienced experts worldwide. All related expenses for attending the Innovation for Good and pitch events in China will be covered, including a) travel expenses: round-trip flight and/or train; local transportation fee (taxi/bus/subway); b) accommodation and meals; c) visa application fees as applicable for international participants.

· The chance to pitch and showcase solutions at the FAO Science and Innovation Forum 2024, during the pitch event “Reboot the earth”. This pitching event, hosted by the FAO Office of Innovation during the Science and Innovation Forum, aims to foster transformative solutions for agrifood systems by showcasing the creativity and ingenuity of innovators. The winners of GAC and two other global competitions (FAO Elevate and Reboot the Earth) will present their groundbreaking ideas on topics ranging from bio-economy initiatives to gender empowerment projects, addressing current climate challenges and more. The event, in collaboration with Salesforce, the UN Youth Office, UN OITC, Zhejiang University the Digital Public Goods Alliance and FAO , highlights the power of strategic partnerships in driving impactful change.

· Advice from experienced experts from the UN, international organizations, the private sector and academia, and the chance to have a dialogue with high-level representatives from leading companies and organizations.

· The opportunity to meet and create market linkage with angel investors from venture capital funds, business leaders in the agrifood sector and relevant investors/participants from the FAO HiH Investment Forum.

· Global networking opportunity with a multitude of stakeholders.

· The top winning teams will receive seed funding.

· Become an alumnus for Global AgriInno Challenge.

4. Theme organization

The theme

Inclusive AI and emerging technologies for agrifood systems transformation

Proposed challenges/priority areas

· How AI and emerging technologies can improve market access, value addition and social benefits for smallholders, especially for women and marginalized groups?

· How can blockchain and related emerging technologies change food production and processing technologies to improve diet quality; and to protect vulnerable populations, in particular children, from invasive marketing campaigns promoting ultra-processed foods, high sugar/salt content foods and drinks, and addictive substances?

· How can GeoAI and other emerging technologies improve effective fisheries management by using innovative data and information systems and provide inclusive access to fisherfolks?

· How can we improve food production, harvesting and distribution practices and protect food through use of low-cost digital solutions and enhanced storage facilities with limited GHG footprint in the LMICs?

· How can we improve the use of GeoAI and data utilization to optimize irrigation decision and timing for smallholders and in the same time to protect soil and water by reducing the use of chemical inputs?

· How to leverage, re-use and integrate traditional knowledge including Indigenous People, to improve and benefit from digital enabled climate financing and adoption of AI in carbon credit market opportunities in the agrifood systems?

· How to provide accurate information on anticipated climate impacts at local level and making available low-cost, inclusive, and easily accessible climate risk management digital solutions, including early warning mechanisms?

5. Who can apply?

GAC 2024 is open for youth who are developing and deploying digital innovation products and services that can accelerate the Four Betters implementation and agrifood systems transformation.  

6. Selection criteria:

· The team has registered as a company or legal entity;

· Have less than USD 1 million in turnover;

· Have less than 5 years of operations;

· Have an innovative, technology-based solution or business model with a Technological Readiness Level (TRL) between 7 and 9 (provide evidence that the project is beyond the MVP stage);  

· Be committed to continuous engagement throughout the entire duration of the program;

· At least one leader of the group must be below 35 years old (Teams with female agripreneurs are highly encouraged).

Note: any adjustments to the criteria will be updated through FAO E-AGRICULTURE.  Also, all the participants will be notified in time through e-mails. 

7. Languages

English and Chinese are the two working languages for the Global AgriInno Challenge 2024. However, all the proposals and presentations shall be conducted in English.

8. How to apply?

The team needs to fill in the application form and submit it by 1 August 2024 (24:00 CEST).  Please find the link in item 13 and fill in carefully.

The requirements to the files submitted in the application form are as below (in English):

· Innovation Solution (PowerPoint or Pdf format of max 12 slides, up to 250 words per slide, Microsoft YaHei Font, font size not less than 16)

Summary of the solution (up to 250 words)

Problem identification (analysis of challenges relating to transformation of the agri-food system)

Mission, vision, values of the project (the type of agriculture activity/sub-sector targeted)

Technical model (how to address challenges relating to digital agriculture and the agri-food system?)

 Timing justification (why is this moment the best time?)

Situation analysis (who is your main competitor and why is your solution better or more innovative than others?)

Business plan (target group, the description of outputs and related activities, adoption strategy, applied methods, partners, sustainability, and consideration of gender)

Financial situation (capital raised, capital needed, revenue analysis)

Phased development planning (what is the potential contribution of your solution in three years? how do you plan to achieve it? what are the milestones?)

· 1-2 minutes long video explaining:
How is your idea or solution going to help benefit vulnerable and rural populations? Answer this question in a 1-2 minute long video. Upload the video online to a video sharing platform (YouTube, Google Cloud, Youku, Baidu Cloud or others) and share the address of the link. 

9. Timeline 


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10. Mentors & Juries

· Mentors:

Academic experts: FAO, Zhejiang University and other stakeholders in the field of digital agriculture and innovation.

Business mentors: business leaders from top companies in agribusiness-related sectors; angel investors from top venture capital funds with extensive investment experience in smart agriculture.

· Juries: professional experts from academies, international organizations and government, investors and business leaders in the agri-food sector.

11. Organizers Structure

Host: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Zhejiang University (ZJU)

12. Data Protection

Global AgriInno Challenge working group gives great importance to the responsible and transparent management of personal data.

13. Click to apply

Application form


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