Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge 2021

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.

Awards and Benefits

Awards will be conferred during the prize-giving ceremony on the 15th of November at the 2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress. Selected winners of the Agrobiodiversity Innovation Challenge will receive both in cash and in-kind prizes. In addition to increased visibility, recognition, and networking opportunities with leading industry players, investors, and scientific experts, 10 shortlisted candidates will receive a place on the Congress website and an invitation to participate in the Virtual Pitch Day Competition on Monday, November 15th.

Following the Pitch Day Competition, selected winners will be awarded cash prizes, mentoring and training, partnerships, scientific and technological guidance, or tuition for a master’s program.

The competition is open to individual founders, private companies, and institutions. Learn more.

Nature of the Awards and Benefits for the applicants
  • Cash prizes – Two grants/free equity of USD 5,000, each of the top two innovators based on the 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).
Non-monetary benefits for applicants:
  • Visibility and recognition – Shortlisted teams will be featured on the Agrobiodiversity Congress website, reaching a global audience, including international investors and organizations, as well as having the opportunity to pitch virtually to the Selection Committee.
  • Networking – Teams will have the opportunity to meet and network with technical experts, international organizations, investors, private sector companies, and research institutions.
  • Corporate activities – Winning teams may be invited to opportunities for additional learning or exposure associated with the Agrobiodiversity Congress and Accelerate for Impact Platform, such as participating in social media campaigns, case studies, and webinars to foster the open innovation model and sustain entrepreneurship and innovation.

Eligibility Criteria

Solution submission for innovations (technologies, methodologies, practices, etc) should:

  • Show 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.
  • Enable the use of agrobiodiversity for healthy and sustainable diets, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and empowerment of small-scale women and youth producers.
  • 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

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Selection Process & Timeline

  1. Call for ideas announced on July 26, 2021.
  2. Submissions will be accepted until September 30, 2021
  3. 10 shortlisted contestants will be notified by email from October 15, 2021. To advance to the final selection round, notified participants must accept by email. Guidelines will be provided for shortlisted contestants to prepare descriptions and pitches to be uploaded on the Congress platform. All applicants will be invited to attend the 2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress.
  4. The 10 shortlisted contestants will be invited to take part in the Pitch Day Competition on Monday, November 15th. Contestants will be asked to make a final pitch and attend a Q&A session with the Selection Committee, investors, partners, and a global audience.
  5. Winning innovations will be awarded a prize on November 15th.
  6. The winning innovations will also be notified by email and must respond to the notification email to accept the prize. If the Secretariat does not receive a response from winners within seven (7) days of the notification, the Secretariat reserves the right to reallocate the prize to another applicant.

Good luck!

For questions, please email

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).


September 30, 2021
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