Winners of Global Sustainable Farming Challenge Revealed

 
The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative are delighted to announce that Agritask Ltd., an Israel-based agricultural-tech start-up, has won the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge.

CropIn Technology Solutions, an India-based agricultural-tech company, was awarded with second place. The winning teams will now receive cash prizes of €100,000 and €35,000 respectively.

The Better Cotton Innovation Challenge, initiated by BCI and IDH and organised by Dalberg Advisors, launched in November 2019 to find new and innovative ideas to scale more sustainable cotton production. The challenge focused on two areas:

  • Customised training: Innovations to bring customised training on more sustainable farming practices to hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers.
  • Data collection: Innovations to reduce the time and cost of data collection to enable more efficient BCI licensing processes.

The challenge received close to 100 applications, 20 of which were shortlisted after a rigorous review process. Of the shortlisted applicants, five finalists – Agritask, CropIn, Ricult, WaterSprint and eKutir – were selected to trial their sustainable solutions in the field with BCI Farmers. Following the eight-week pilot period, a jury composed of BCI, IDH and Dalberg representatives, assessed the finalists and selected the winners based on a six-point criteria: impact, technical performance, likelihood of adoption, scalability, financial sustainability and team capability.

Agritask: winner

Agritask offers a holistic agronomic platform that enables agricultural stakeholders, including farmers, to capture and make use of a range of data in a highly flexible manner. The Agritask mobile app is customisable, allowing farmers to adopt digital solutions intuitively in a way that works for them. In addition, the platform enables remote monitoring via satellite and virtual weather stations and supports interaction with third-party systems. Data that is captured through the app is then aggregated and processed to provide actionable insights, tailored to each user.

Arsira Thumaprudti, Head of Business Development at Agritask commented, ”We are proud to work with global leaders in sustainability such as BCI. We are coming out of the field trials with a deeper appreciation of the complexity involved in implementing and monitoring sustainability programmes in the field, and this is exactly the type of challenge we were looking for.”

Images: ©Agritask. Cotton farming in Israel, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CropIn: runner-up

CropIn’s solution is a digital farm management solution that enables complete digitisation of farming processes. The platform empowers data-driven decision-making and provides complete visibility of people, processes and performance on a near real-time basis. It enables farmers to efficiently manage farming practices, while also ensuring they are adhering to compliance and certification requirements. The solution will assist farmers to address issues such as pest and crop-health and manage budgets and inputs, helping farmers to maximize their returns.

The need for technological interventions to support sustainable farming is more pressing than ever. CropIn’s digital platforms are built to maximise value per acre for farmers, in an efficient, predictable and sustainable manner. Our solutions enable cotton farmers to manage and monitor crop farming in an accurate, affordable and scalable manner”, said Pallavi Kanak, Cropin Director India SEA.

Both winning solutions were selected from the data collection challenge category.

The Innovation Challenge was set up to help identify solutions and partnerships that would accelerate the benefits for cotton farmers in their adoption of BCI principles and practices towards more sustainable cotton farming. The winning innovations have demonstrated in the field trials how adoption of new engagement models and technology can support and strengthen impact at field level,” said Pramit Chanda, Global Director Textiles and Manufacturing at IDH.

Cristina Martin Cuadrado, Programme Manager at BCI, praised the finalists, ”Congratulations to Agritask and CropIn, who persevered, along with the other three challenge finalists, and piloted their solutions despite the challenges and set-backs caused by Covid-19 this year. Now the challenge is over, we are excited to be exploring next steps and a potential roll out plan. We look forward to sharing further updates soon.”

Additional information about the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge can be found at: bettercottonchallenge.org.

About the organisations

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is a global not-for-profit organisation and the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. It aims to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. BCI partners with on-the-ground Implementing Partners to provide training on more sustainable farming practices to more than 2.3 cotton farmers in 23 countries. Better Cotton accounts for 22% of global cotton production.

IDH, The Sustainable Trade Initiative, convenes companies, civil society organizations, governments, and others in public-private partnerships in order to drive the joint design, co-funding and prototyping of new economically viable approaches. IDH is supported by multiple European governments, including the institutional donors: BUZA, SECO, and DANIDA.

Dalberg Advisors is a global advisory firm that provides high-level strategic, policy and investment advice to the leadership of key institutions, corporations, and governments, working collaboratively to address pressing global problems and generate positive social impact. Dalberg has a global presence, covering 25 countries across continents.

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Innovation Challenge Finalists Pilot Sustainable Farming Solutions

 
In November 2019, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), with the support of Dalberg Advisors, launched the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge – a global project seeking creative ideas and solutions to improve sustainable cotton farming practices around the world.

The first round of the challenge aimed to uncover innovative approaches and/or existing solutions to two identified challenges:

Challenge One: Customised Training
Innovations to help bring customised training on more sustainable farming practices to hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers across the globe.

Challenge Two: Data Collection
Solutions that could reduce the time and cost of farmer data collection to enable more efficient BCI processes.

A jury composed of external experts, BCI representatives, IDH representatives and the Dalberg team assessed 87 applications and shortlisted 20, before selecting five candidates to progress to the final phase of the competition. The five finalists now have the opportunity to pilot their sustainability-focused solutions in the field with BCI Farmers.

Meet the Finalists

Finalists Challenge One: Customised Training for Farmers

EKutir

Ekutir’s solution restructures training content into shorter, easily digestible modules delivered to farmers at the appropriate time of the year. It also provides individually tailored, immediately actionable advice to farmers based on a combination of their progress in the cotton growth cycle and real-time weather data. Ekutir’s solution automates the delivery of general training content and creates several delivery routes that cater to both literate and illiterate, smartphone-enabled and smartphone-less farmers.

WaterSprint

Water Sprint offers an interactive Decision Support System (DSS) which is designed to help farmers manage their crops by providing actual and forecasted measures of soil, climatic and agronomic conditions at local and regional levels. On the basis of the measurements, the system computes the required need for irrigation, fertilisers and pesticides. This proposed technology will use remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to gather data from satellites and formulate and communicate information to farmers through a smartphone app.

Finalists Challenge Two: Efficiency of Data Collection

Agritask

Agritask offers a platform to manage the entire cotton verification process, including digital data collection, field inspection planning, remote sensing and other technologies. Its mobile app enables farmers to keep records digitally, and for Field Facilitators (field-based staff, employed by BCI’s Implementing Partners, who deliver on-the-ground training to farmers) to document inspections digitally. Agritask enables remote monitoring via satellite and virtual weather stations and provides agronomic advice to farmers. It can also integrate with other technologies such as voice-based mobile apps to facilitate data collection.

CropIn

CropIn’s proposed solution is a digital farm management solution (that has both mobile and web interfaces) that enables complete digitisation of farming processes. The platform empowers data-driven decision-making and provides complete visibility of people, processes and performance on a near real-time basis. It enables farmers to efficiently manage farming practices, while also ensuring they are adhering to compliance and certification requirements. The solution will help farmers to address issues such as pest and crop-health and manage budgets and inputs, helping farmers to maximize their returns.

Ricult

Ricult is an integrated Artificial Intelligence based digital platform that collects data directly from farmers (through mobile phones) and via remote sensing, satellite imagery, processing mills, middlemen and other cotton supply chain actors. The platform processes and analyses the data and generates actionable insights which are then distributed throughout the agriculture ecosystem through mobile phones and a web-based application. The generated insights are both predictive and diagnostic and will help farmers in improving their yield and crop health, while also enabling cotton mills to gain access to yield forecasts.

Field Trials

The field-level trials provide an opportunity for the five finalists to test their proposed solutions in a real farming environment. To support the finalists, each organisation has been paired with one BCI Implementing Partner who will support them during the eight weeks of the trials.

The trials are now underway in India, Pakistan and Israel, after facing a slight delay due to Covid-19. Travel restrictions and social distancing requirements have also led the finalists to come up with alternative approaches to conduct many of their trial activities remotely, such as data collection and delivery of training sessions. Despite the challenges, the trials are going well and should be complete by the end of September.

Once the field-level trials have been completed, a new jury composed of Implementing Partner representatives, BCI representatives, IDH representatives and the Dalberg team will assess the finalists and select the final winners based on a six-point criteria: impact, technical performance, likelihood of adoption, scalability, financial sustainability and team capability.

The final winners will be announced around the end of October! We look forward to sharing a further update then.

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Sustainable Farming Solutions Shortlisted for Global Better Cotton Innovation Challenge

 
In November 2019, the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), with the support of Dalberg Advisors, launched the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge – a global project seeking innovative ideas and solutions to improve sustainable cotton farming practices around the world.

The Challenge was divided into two categories:

Challenge One: Customised Training
Challenge one sought innovations to help bring customised training on more sustainable farming practices to hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers across the globe.

Challenge Two: Data Collection
Challenge two sought solutions that could reduce the time and cost of farmer data collection to enable more efficient BCI licensing processes.

A total of 87 applications were submitted before the January 2020 deadline – 36 applications for the customised training challenge, and 51 applications for the data collection challenge.

We are delighted that the Challenge received such a high level of interest from organisations all over the world. Thank you to those who took the time to submit thoughtful, creative and practical solutions.” – Cristina Martin, Programme Manager, BCI.

All 87 applications were reviewed by the Innovation Challenge Team, and the top 20 solutions were shortlisted to progress through to the next stage of the challenge. The 20 shortlisted applicants – from India, Pakistan, Greece, Israel, Kenya, Australia and the US – received mentorship from cotton sector experts and BCI as they prepared high-quality, detailed proposals for their solutions, including plans to test their innovations at field level.

A jury composed of external experts, alongside BCI, IDH and Dalberg, then assessed the detailed applications and selected five final candidates to progress to the next phase of on-the-ground trials.

When shortlisting the solutions, the jury considered:

  • Impact: Is the solution effective?
  • Adaptive: Is it adaptive and flexible?
  • Scalable: Is it scalable and replicable?
  • Viability: Is it financially viable and sustainable?
  • Capability: Is the team capable of implementing the solution?
  • Pragmatic: Is the on-the-ground test being proposed practical?
  • X-Factor: Is it novel and new to the BCI programme?

In the next stage of the competition, the five applicants will have the opportunity to pilot their sustainability-focused solutions in the field with BCI Farmers.

In light of the spread of Covid-19 and global travel restrictions, the field-testing element of the Challenge has been postponed until July 2020 in order to safeguard the health and wellbeing of everyone involved in the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge. We look forward to continuing this exciting competition with our finalist innovators, and sharing their solutions, later in the year.” – Cristina Martin, Programme Manager.

Find out more about the challenge here.

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