Agri-tech innovations can be powerful vehicles to transform the agriculture industry from a net contributor to climate change to a solution; however, these often get stuck in the commercialization process due to the perceived risk involved. The AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge trained 32 teams to accelerate their high-tech, science-based agrifood solutions by developing an actionable pathway to scale through capacity development, mentorship, and networking. This project was led by the Accelerate for Impact Platform of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and national partners in Morocco, within the CGIAR Initiative on Fragility to Resilience in Central and West Asia and North Africa.
Agrifood tech innovations are powerful forces for good to transform global agrifood systems and revert the trajectory of the planet’s climate. For this to happen, supportive public policy and government involvement are particularly salient to bear the risks of early-stage solutions that the private sector will not. Research from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development highlights that beyond promoting investment, the public sector plays a major role in creating policy incentives and in the setting of regulatory frameworks for these innovations to scale.
CGIAR, through the Accelerate for Impact Platform of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and Fragility to Resilience in Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA), are working to create stronger networks between scientists, innovators, and support ecosystem players to ensure science-driven technologies and research advances are scaled past the laboratory and brought to market. The Accelerate for Impact Platform supports innovators to create optimal impact and overcome roadblocks in the commercialization and scaling processes that are areas of chief concern for them. In doing so, the Accelerate for Impact Platform strives to facilitate the uptake of new technologies and durable solutions amongst value chain actors and intended beneficiaries.
The Accelerate for Impact Platform joined forces with CGIAR Centers with “boots on the ground” in Morocco to support country and regional efforts to foster collaborations with stakeholders operating in the innovation space. As part of Fragility to Resilience in CWANA, it co-designed and implemented the AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge for impact-driven entrepreneurs with agrifood tech solutions in the early stage that can make agriculture in Morocco more efficient, resilient, and greener, while aligning with the goals of the Generation Green 2020–2030 Strategy. The Initiative set out to provide technical assistance, mentoring, and business training to build sustainable business models, strengthen the scientific capacity, and better align with investor expectations.
“The capacity-building framework of the acceleration program helped us refine our business model, connect with ecosystem players, and strengthen the scientific validity of our innovation. Building bridges between science and entrepreneurship is fundamental to tackling inefficiencies in food systems. Through CGIAR A4IP, we can benefit from world-class scientists’ technical assistance.” – Benjamin Rombaut, Co-founder and CEO, Sand to Green (AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge winner)
The AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge attracted 350+ submissions from talented entrepreneurs representing 31 countries, all with solutions applicable to the context of Morocco. After a rigorous selection process, 20 teams, including 32 purpose-driven entrepreneurs, were admitted to the bootcamp phase, where they received training in design thinking, user-centered design, how to conduct participatory evaluation from customers during pilots, and how to successfully pitch their business idea to investors.
The nine-week acceleration program that followed involved 10 teams, representing five countries. The program was designed to help these teams test, validate, and adopt their innovations for positive impact, with a focus on developing an actionable pathway to scale and strengthening the scientific validity of their solutions. It adopted a mixed delivery mode, through 30+ hours of workshops, expert talks, and science sessions, 90 hours of one-on-one mentoring, and a blended learning approach that combined business-oriented training and scientific technical assistance from 12 CGIAR researchers.
The Accelerate for Impact Platform matched teams with scientists with relevant expertise in Impact Areas to innovators who offered individualized technical assistance and support with regards to the technological development and scientific component of their project. The demo day marked the conclusion of the AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge and the announcement of its three winners. These startups, two of which are women-led, represent three countries. This event offered teams a global platform to pitch their solutions to an audience of ministry agents, scientists, industry players, and investors.
The Accelerate for Impact Platform and the accelerator provided flexible, on-demand post-acceleration support for winners, ensuring that they could continue reaping the benefits of the acceleration program in terms of visibility, fundraising, and networks. The AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge supported winners to leverage capacity building and partnerships established throughout the program for securing up to $1 million in seed funding, accessing new markets, and expanding their client portfolio.
The AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge demonstrated the potential of innovation to offer concrete solutions to address the interwoven challenges of cutting emissions, increasing yields and quality, and protecting business viability. The next step in impact is to incentivize farmers and other value chain actors in the country to adopt these affordable and durable tech solutions that may incur short-term costs but provide significant long-term benefits.
Header photo: Twenty innovation teams gathered for the AgriTech4Morocco Innovation Challenge three-day capacity development training bootcamp in Meknes, a prime agriculture region of the country. Photo by CGIAR Accelerate for Impact Platform