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Smart Farming Innovations for Small-Scale Producers

GC Farming Digital Technologies Challenge Photo

Note: Please see the request for proposals document with additional background as a PDF file on the right.


Smart Farming Innovations for Small-Scale Producers Request for Proposals (RFP) seeks Smart Farming solutions that leverage digital technology innovations that have the potential to drive positive impact for smallscale producer (SSP) entrepreneurs delivered through bundled farmer services and enabled by scalable digital and data platforms (Figure 1). Solutions should address one or more challenges faced by smallscale crop and livestock producers in one or more areas of agricultural advisory, farm management decision support, input supply, finance, insurance, market access and linkages. Solutions should use human-centered design to elucidate the barriers that prevent SSPs from improving productivity, profitability and income – then propose Smart Farming solutions that can help elevate smallscale production entrepreneurs. Some of the fundamental challenges to address include: 1) low productivity driven by lack of access to information and services; climate change, weather variability and pest and disease outbreaks; 2) lack of access to tailored financial and insurance products, and 3) lack of access to and choice of market and offtake options. Additionally, solutions will need to consider barriers to adoption of digital farmer services, such as low language and digital literacy, the high relative cost of services and devices and, in particular, gender gaps and other potential downsides of digital solutions (e.g. the growing digital divide).

Figure 1. Smart Farming Innovations for SSPs

Awards: There are two grant types – Seed Grants and Scale-Up Grants – each with its own requirements. Applicants can only apply for one of these grant types must select which level for which they are applying (proposal should not be submitted for both grant types).

Seed Grants – Up to USD 250,000 to be implemented up to 12 months. Seed Grants are proposals for Smart Farming solutions that can demonstrate potential in meeting the following criteria:

  • Leveraging digital technology innovations with the potential to scale, for example, utilizing a proven technology that has been applied in agriculture in another geography; transferring a technology from another sector such as health, infrastructure or finance; sourcing an entirely new technology;
  • Show potential to improve SSP incomes, productivity and ability to adapt to climate change;
  • Address barriers to scaled adoption of digital services, such as access, affordability and language and digital literacy. This includes addressing women's access to digital services and closing the digital divide between those who have access and marginalized populations who do not;
  • Have the potential to be bundled with multiple farmer-facing services into an integrated solution;
  • Are enabled by robust digital and data technology platforms and services;
  • Provide fit-for-purpose solutions (e.g. developed using human-centered design) for SSP enterprises who seek to sell a portion of production to markets;
  • Show potential to be scaled using a sustainable business model and are affordable and able to provide positive return on investment at a smallholder farm level through successful pilots, scaling partners, or higher volume production driving down prices.

Scale-Up Grants – Up to USD 1,500,000 to be implemented up to 24 months. Scale-Up Grants are proposals with demonstrated ability and sufficient evidence to have positive impact. In addition to the criteria listed above for Seed Grants, Scale-Up Grants must also:

  • Leverage digital technology innovations with demonstrated readiness to scale and proven ability to bundle with other services;
  • Meet all criteria regarding technology innovations, scalable platforms, and sustainable bundled service delivery models;
  • Demonstrate that additional funding will enable value capture by SSPs or other value chain actors and sustainable and viable service delivery models over the long term.
  • Please upload a separate document – 1 additional page maximum – that describes your partner consortium in more detail, including the various partners' capabilities, and additional evidence of value add, income, productivity, women's empowerment and long-term sustainability of the solution.

Consortiums: To increase the probability that projects funded through this RFP will continue after the initial project completion and evolve into a continuing global public good or sustained solution, applicants are encouraged to consider of a range of partners to form a consortium. This investment will prioritize those who partner with organizations interested in Smart Farming in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as long-term opportunities. There are several types of organizations we envisage being part of consortia submitting proposals: Enterprise Technology Platforms (Big-Tech), Enterprise Agriculture (Big-Ag), Ag-Tech Startups (Ag-Tech + Farm-Tech), Research Organizations (R&D), national and international NGOs and farmer-based organizations (Implementors), Government and International Organizations.

Geographies: While we primarily seek solutions applicable to the LMICs listed below and favor those forming local partnerships. Other geographies will be considered if a strong case is made for doing so.

  • Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Nigeria
  • Asia: India (Bihar, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh), Bangladesh

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.
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