Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development

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In 2012, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Sweden (Sida), the Government of Germany (BMZ), Duke Energy Corporation, and the United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) (collectively, the “Founding Partners”) joined together to launch and fund this multiyear Call for Proposals (CFP) for Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC).

The objective of PAEGC is to support new and sustainable approaches to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy solutions for agriculture productivity and/or value in developing countries. Such approaches are designed to integrate clean energy technologies and innovative business models to: (i) increase agricultural yields; (ii) decrease post-harvest losses, (iii) enhance farmer and agribusiness income generating activities and revenues; (iv) increase energy efficiency within farms and agribusinesses, and (v) stimulate low carbon local and regional economic growth within the agriculture sector of developing countries.

The Grand Challenge for Development model is designed to focus global attention on specific, narrowly defined international development problems, and to facilitate solving them. Grand Challenges encourage solutions that build on physical and social science research and technological advancements, and engage new actors that might otherwise not receive support through traditional international development programs. Importantly, the model supports solutions with the potential to achieve scale in low resource settings by, among other things, leveraging commercial investment and financing.

Please click here to hear more about PAEGC.

Identifying the Problem

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development catalyzes resources and focuses attention on the problem that many farmers and agribusinesses in developing countries lack access to reliable, affordable, and clean energy services. This limits their ability to adopt modern agricultural practices, increase food production, improve efficiency of their operations, and benefit from broad-based, low-carbon economic growth. As the global population steadily increases, substantial agricultural intensification will need to occur – which is intrinsically tied to an increase in energy demand. Along the value chain – from obtaining agri-inputs, planting, irrigation, and harvesting to processing, transportation, and storage – there are opportunities for increased use of clean energy technologies to enhance agriculture production and value. Not only is there an identified need for technology development, but also for creative approaches to bring clean energy innovations to commercial scale.

Barriers to Growth

The Powering Agriculture Founding Partners recognize that many agrarian communities face substantial barriers in incorporating clean energy solutions in their operations. Often farmers are not aware of what technology is available – or the technology that is available does not match the performance characteristics or price points required in emerging markets. Further, there are seldom appropriate financing mechanisms in place to assist agribusinesses cover the relatively high up-front capital costs of new technology.

Rising to the Challenge

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC) seeks to identify and support new and sustainable approaches to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy solutions for increasing agriculture productivity and/or value in developing countries.

In support of this tenant, PAEGC seeks to fund solutions within the clean energy-agriculture nexus that: (i) Can achieve scale; (ii) Are adoptable within the context of emerging markets; (iii) Are sustainable, and can ultimately progress without outside assistance; and (iv) Utilize modern, evidence-based science and technology approaches

PAEGC has four key program components:

  1. Supporting clean energy technology and businesses model innovations for agriculture
  2. Ensuring that financial intermediaries have the capital they need to help organizations scale their innovations and reach the farmers and farm-related businesses that need these technologies
  3. Developing partnerships with public and private sector organizations that want to support the goals of the Powering Agriculture program
  4. Serve as a clean energy and agricultural information resource for people around the world

Global Innovation Calls

The call aims at supporting organizations and companies with innovative solutions at the interface of agriculture and energy in order to develop and promote energy smart solutions for a resource-efficient and sustainable food production. Applicants from a wide range of U.S. and non-U.S organizations and institutions are encouraged to respond including academic institutions, not-for-profit and for-profit organizations, foundations, civic groups, and cooperatives.

Global Innovation Call 2013

The first Call took place in 2013. The 11 winners received approx. 1 Mio USD each for boosting their respective project at the interface of agriculture and energy.

Global Innovation Call 2015

The 2nd Call for Innovation took place in 2015. The Founding Partners anounced 13 winners that will collectively receive nearly $13 million in funding. For more information please see here.

Further Information