Agriculture Biodiversity Events Food Security Sustainability

Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge: Call for innovative solutions in the agri-food tech space

The Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge is seeking innovators driven by a passion for solving challenges in the agri-food sector by utilizing or conserving agrobiodiversity.

As part of the 2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress, November 15-18, 2021, in Rome, the Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge will recognize new products, services, and best practices that can help farmers, consumers, and food companies increase production effectiveness, competitiveness, and resilience while conserving agrobiodiversity.

In an open innovation approach, the Innovation Challenge aims to: 

  • Connect different actors motivated to improve global and community-based food systems
  • Attract and support innovators to scale up their solutions through a long-term research and development collaboration with CGIAR and its partners 
  • Identify innovators who could help advance research by sharing ideas and solutions 

Disruptive innovators will have an opportunity to pitch their solutions to transform food systems through the use and conservation of agrobiodiversity and to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The challenge will highlight leading innovations that are helping to use, conserve, and consume agrobiodiversity in ways that are better for people and for the environment.

Solutions should have the potential to:

  • Boost food production, consumption, and nutritional security
  • Promote women’s engagement, entrepreneurship, as well as youth-led exercises 
  • Promote Public-Private-Partnerships to link formal and informal sectors for sustainable intensification leading to livelihood and environmental benefits
  • Accelerate rural adoption using mobile applications that boost nature-based solutions to improve sustainability, profits for growers, and consumer health
  • Leverage technological innovations with biodiversity-sensitive potential for producers, their communities, and consumers
  • Close the gap between breeding outcomes and commercial delivery of quality certified seeds to farmers

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Applicants must be responsible for an innovation with a demonstrated efficiency using novel tools and methodologies, products, or services to enhance and promote sustainable food and agriculture.
  • Applicants can be: Individual innovators (e.g., farmers, processors, engineers, etc.), Startups, International Organizations (IOs), National Agriculture Research System (NARS), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Private Companies, Universities.
  • Innovations should be able to show a proof of concept or minimum-viable-product (MVP) of a product or service (technology, methodology, practice) that uses agrobiodiversity for the transformation and sustainability of food systems.
  • All innovations must apply to agrobiodiversity conservation and consumption practices and should aim to include climate change adaptation measures. Application forms that are incomplete, do not comply with the terms and conditions specified in the call, or are submitted after the deadline, will not be considered.
  • No applicants under the age of 18 will be considered for the Award unless represented by a parent or legal guardian. Participation is free of charge. 
  • Applicants can only submit original works for which they are the sole inventors and copyright holders. In the case of a group of co-founders, the names and ages of all authors must be listed in the application form and will be considered as a single application.
  • Applications should be submitted through the Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge webpage in English. Selected applications will be invited to the final stage and given a space on the Congress website. 
  • Preference will be given to applications by teams that have developed solutions to address the needs of the rural poor and/or communities in fragile and conflict-affected states or heavily affected by the aftermath of COVID-19. 


Submissions for innovations (technologies, methodologies, practices, etc) should show a proof of concept or minimum-viable-product that could be made available to farmers, consumers, and food companies to increase production effectiveness, competitiveness, and resilience while conserving agrobiodiversity. Solutions should enable the use of agrobiodiversity for healthy and sustainable diets, climate change adaption and mitigation, and empowerment of small-scale women and youth producers.

Prizes and benefits:

  • Cash prizes – Two grants/free equity of USD 5,000 to each of the top two innovators based on level of excellence and innovation – (IFAD)
  • Mentoring – Support in fine-tuning business models and developing business plans, along with access to science and business development teams – (CGIAR / IITA BIP)
  • Partnership – Partnering with a CGIAR scientist or team to provide guidance and feedback on innovation – (CGIAR / Alliance, IIT)
  • Matching – Participating in a Shark Tank/Dragon’s Den-like pitch to IFAD country teams for opportunities to match for further product development and/or scaling (IFAD)
  • Expertise – In-kind, post-award support will be provided to equip innovators with tools, technical assistance, strategic guidance, technological due diligence, mentorship, and access to a global community of scientists and to field operations to test and scale solutions – (CGIAR / Alliance, IIT)
  • Training and Tuition – Three winning ideas (team or member) will receive two full scholarships worth USD 25,000 each, and one additional full tuition assistance for participation in the Master I Level Open Innovation & Youth Entrepreneurship course from CIHEAM Bari – (CIHEAM Bari).

For further information, please contact

The Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge is an initiative organized with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with CIHEAM Bari, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) , Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) BiP, Rockstart, The Lexicon and the Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP).