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RIYADH: The Ministry of Economy and Planning announced at the InFlavour Expo the winners of the “Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge,” an initiative that aims to optimize the food ecosystem globally, through backing entrepreneurs and startups.

The challenge, one of two such food ecosystem innovations, calls for solutions through climate-smart agriculture approaches to enhance food production and encourage better living standards to respond to climate change and result in the efficient care of the planet’s resources.

It was initiated by the ministry’s partnership with the World Economic Forum’s innovation platform, UpLink.

Sadaf Hosseini, Head of Growth Partnerships and Innovation ecosystem at UpLink. (AN photo by Abdulrhmn bun Shulhub)

Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, general manager of external engagement for sustainable development at the ministry, told Arab News: “Part of our efforts at the Ministry of Economy and Planning is that we look at innovation as one of the strategic enablers to achieve sustainable development. And through also our partnership with the World Economic Forum, we have collaborated with UpLink as a platform to source innovators to resolve (one of) the world’s most pressing challenges globally.”

The challenge is a call for immediate action to address food security issues in the hope of securing better living standards and sustainable food production across the world.

Part of our efforts at the Ministry of Economy and Planning is that we look at innovation as one of the strategic enablers to achieve sustainable development.

Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, Ministry of Economy and Planning, external engagement for sustainable development general manager

Submissions from startups in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, and Oceania have resulted.

The challenge also considered catered solutions to different climates. The desert environment in Saudi Arabia, for example, poses challenges like cultivating food, combating prolonged drought, and mitigating desertification and unpredictable rainfall patterns.

From 246 submissions, 12 solutions were announced as winners after the close of submissions in August, assessed using three main criteria: how innovative the solutions were, the impact indicators related to the area they were tackling, and business performance.  

The winners were agricultural technology startup Alkama (UK); social enterprise AMAATI (Ghana); climate tech business Amini (Kenya); food waste and soil degradation specialists BillionCarbon (India); agri fintech startup Dvara E-Registry (India); food production startup Instacrops (Chile); low-cost farming solution designer Kheyti (India); research and development crop protection company MoA Tech (UK); green-tech innovator Spowdi (Sweden); sustainable agrochemical developer Unibaio (Argentina); vertically integrated livestock value chain company UpTrade (Pakistan); and VIA Irrigation Academy (Australia).  

Sadaf Hosseini, head of growth partnerships and innovation ecosystem at UpLink, told Arab News: “We are seeing more and more willingness by policymakers, by the private sector, by philanthropists, to really come along and join the movement that is happening.

“However, this speed is not fast enough. That’s why more and more collaboration is needed to really clear out the noise and put the innovators in front of decision-makers and really listen to what their needs are.”

She added: “If you think about the environmental issues, if you think about the climate issues that we are seeing, if you think about all the desertification that is happening — it is catching people, and people are actually seeing it and feeling it. It’s not some remote problem anymore, not something that a scientist is talking about; it’s real.”

The winners will be awarded monetary funding from the Saudi government, as well as access to the WEF and partner-led events, projects and communities, global exposure via the WEF’s and UpLink’s digital media channels, and introductions to organizations.

Under an agreement signed by the ministry and UpLink, two initiatives, the “Food Ecosystems in Arid Climates” challenge and “Smarter Climate Farmers Challenge,” were launched in January and June 2023, respectively, in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture and supported by a number of local and international entities, including NEOM, Nestle, Roots Ventures, UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the World Food Forum.



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