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Milken-Motsepe agritech award recognises excellence of African developers

Motsepe Foundation CEO and co-founder Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe

Milken senior director Dr Emily Church

2nd May 2023

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Deputy Editor Online

     

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US-based think tank the Milken Institute, together with local nonprofit the Motsepe Foundation, has named Tanzanian biotech company NovFeed as the winner of the inaugural Milken-Motsepe Prize for its upcycling technology in the agricultural technology (agritech) space.

The competition marks the first in a series of multiyear, multimillion-dollar innovation competitions and programmes by the two partners to advance technological progress towards United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

NovFeed has been awarded $1-million for its proprietary technology to upcycle organic waste into nutritious, sustainable and traceable plant-based protein ingredients and concentrated natural biofertiliser.

Another $300 000 award for second place was awarded to a Uganda-based company, Karpolax, for its nanotechnology solution, which helps to keep fruits and vegetables fresher for longer without losing nutritional value.

In third place was IRRI-AfricaRice – a partnership between Africa Rice Centre and the International Rice Research Institute. It was awarded $150 000 for its biotech innovation that helps rice farmers protect their crops from flooding.

Bonus prizes of $100 000 each were also awarded to South Africa-based Kuronga and Côte d'Ivoire-based COOL LION. 

Kuronga uses Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence to connect farmers with buyers and enable validation of quality of crops.

In turn, COOL LION provides cooling-as-a-service solutions for different industries, including agriculture and fishery, using renewable energy. This company was awarded the People’s Choice bonus prize for the most transformative idea according to the public.

Motsepe Foundation co-founder Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe says varied solutions were considered during the competition, and this contributes to current and future efforts to understand and resolve challenges facing agriculture.

She says making progress towards the SDGs is crucial.

Milken senior director Dr Emily Church adds that the winners exemplify the fact that bold, scalable and transformative ideas can come from anywhere.

Church explains that the Milken-Motsepe agritech competition intentionally supports entrepreneurs and brings talent to the fore; however, it does not end there. The expanded network of investors and stakeholders built into the programme offers the winning teams continued opportunities to innovate and thrive.

Milken and the Motsepe Foundation in April 2021 launched the competition, which saw more than 3 300 agritech entrepreneurs or solution developers from 105 countries registering.

An independent panel of expert judges selected 25 finalist teams to receive $10 000 to develop and test their innovations to improve economic value for small and medium-sized farms in Africa.

Each of the teams took part in a rigorous judging process, which assessed the innovation’s potential to increase farm productivity and/or decrease post-harvest loss.

The teams also received a variety of special benefits, including participation in a tuition-free experiential learning programme offered by Global Innovation Catalyst, where the teams received mentoring from industry experts, pitch coaching and feedback sessions.

The agritech competition forms part of the Milken-Motsepe Innovation Prize Programme, which has launched a second competition, the Prize in Green Energy. The $2-million innovation competition, which was launched in November last year, will reward entrepreneurs and innovators who expand access to reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity in Africa.

 

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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