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The SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme: a model for scaling up innovative agrifood enterprises

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Adelphi hosted SEED programme have joined forces to support innovators in facilitating agrifood transformations and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


©Gorilla Conservation Coffee

©Gorilla Conservation Coffee

The SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme: a model for scaling up innovative agrifood enterprises

Rapid population growth, economic downturns, extreme climates and changing consumption patterns are challenging our global food systems. Therefore, alternative approaches and innovative solutions are needed to rethink and transform global agrifood systems while contributing to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

A new joint initiative by FAO and SEED, the SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme, aims to nurture these approaches and solutions by supporting enterprises in financial readiness, innovation potential, and market reach. The kind of help they will receive includes assistance in developing business, marketing or investment plans, as well as advice on how to approach potential financiers or how to go digital. SEED, which was founded at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), will be supporting innovators via a tailor-made toolkit to guide them on their journey, as part of the FAO-SEED Programme.

The SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme acknowledges that all 17 SDGs are interconnected and addresses challenges across a broad range of SDGs. Operating across eight countries in Africa and Asia, the Agrifood Innovators contribute to SDGs, focusing on no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, gender equality, reduced inequalities, sustainable consumption and production, climate action and on life on land.

The first cohort of the Programme, which was launched on 16 February 2023, includes twelve Agrifood Innovators from SEED's portfolio of 358.


Local solutions to transform the agrifood system and accelerate SDGs

The innovators joining the Programme are pioneering new solutions to transform agrifood systems while improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in their communities — whether they suffer from poverty, inequalities, the effects of the climate crisis or other societal roadblocks.

African innovators are coming in with impressive models like the Amaati Group, who empower rural Ghanaian women by farming indigenous Fonio grains and Kalahari Honey in Botswana, who train farmers to use bees to stop elephants from devastating their farms. Out of Uganda, the group is also joined by Gorilla Conservation Coffee who pay a premium price to help coffee farmers living next door to the gorillas around the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. This business keeps farmers from damaging the forest through activities like poaching and removing resources like wood, which in turn helps protect the gorillas and their habitat.

Selected innovators operating across Asia include Listenfield in Thailand, providing a precision farming solution to cut field operation costs for farmers; Farmers Fresh Zone in India who improves the traceability of food, supporting rural farmers in good agricultural practices and Farm Organic, who promote an organic urban farming concept and healthy lifestyle for urban households. The Asian group also includes Auspice Social, which only employs persons with Autism, creating employment for typically marginalized groups while offering culinary herbs free from additives and preservatives. 

The results of the first rendition of the FAO-SEED Agrifood Accelerator Programme featuring these innovators will be shared during the Global UN Food Systems Stocktaking Moment, which will take place in Rome, Italy, from 24 – 26 July 2023, at the premises of FAO. 


Highlights from the Launch on 16 February 2023 

The virtual kick-off event opened with encouraging welcoming remarks, “Together with SEED we want to explore how the innovators involved can make a difference in the transformation of agrifood systems locally as we work towards achieving the SDGs globally," said Stefanos Fotiou, Director of FAO’s Office of Sustainable Development Goals. "Leveraging the network of innovators from SEED and nurturing local agrifood solutions through a tailored innovation support package opens new ways for FAO to have an on-the-ground impact."

SEED Executive Director Arab Hoballah commended the innovators, saying, “The calibre of the twelve selected SDG Agrifood Innovators is inspiring, leading by example for replication and acceleration of change. We are excited to further their SDG contributions with FAO through our joint Programme. We strongly encourage policymakers and financers to take a closer look at these innovative SMEs as they have the potential to become key partners in transforming global food systems in the transition to circularity and sustainability.”

Next, the twelve innovators showcased how they envision transforming agrifood systems in their local contexts while contributing to the SDGs. Many of the enterprises’ work touches multiple SDGs, illustrating how interconnected the Goals are. For example, AfriLeap, an urban sustainable hydroponics grow facility in South Africa is pioneering growing hops year-round which has environmental (i.e., water efficiency), economic (i.e., job creation) and social impacts (i.e., market access for small-scale farmers) which contributes to SDG 8, 12 and 13 according to their founder, Khaya Maloney.

Some of the enterprises are looking to have impacts across the entire agrifood supply chain. For instance, Farm Fresh Zone of India is collecting and selling local produce through a shortened value chain using AI technology to predict demand and yield. According to their representative Neethi Mohan, this technology has the potential to create a more consistent supply chain, reduce waste, decrease financial fraud and simplifying the disconnected models that are currently used.

In the second half of the event the innovators got right to work, mapping out exactly how their businesses contribute to the SDGs. This initial self-assessment will help guide the enterprises through the SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme.




 Brochure: SDG Agrifood Accelerator Programme: Facilitating Transformative Innovation




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