SWFF Announces 10 Award Winners of Round 4 Grand Challenge Call for Innovations

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands (MFA-NL), and the South Africa Department of Science and Technology (DST) announced today the  10 award winners for Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development Round 4 Global Call for Innovations.

The Securing Water for Food (SWFF) partners fund game-changing innovations that produce more food using less water and help to address water scarcity, one of the most pressing development challenges of the early 21st century.

Feeding 9 billion people and meeting the water demand from the world’s population in 2050 poses significant challenges for all operators in the global food value chain.

“Feeding 9 billion people and meeting the water demand from the world’s population in 2050 poses significant challenges for all operators in the global food value chain. SWFF sources and accelerates a variety of innovations for emerging markets that address water use, scarcity and stress,” notes Dr. Ku McMahan, Team Lead for SWFF.

The Round 4 award winners receive funding from SWFF and acceleration support from the SWFF Technical Assistance Facility. Each year of their award, innovators must continue to prove the viability of their innovations and business model through metrics and milestones to receive future funding.

This round, which focused on innovations that benefit the poor and women, received 555 applications from universities, startups, and NGOs in more than 80 countries, of which 70 percent of the applicants and winners were from developing countries. Innovations ranged from novel technologies to simple concepts, with an increase in innovations that are women-oriented and pro-poor. The 10 award winners stood out as exceptional initiatives with high potential for transformative impact.

To learn more about the Securing Water for Food Round 4 award winners go to securingwaterforfood.com. Learn more about the Grand Challenges for Development program at usaid.gov/grandchallenges.

Award winners for Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development Round 4 include:

SkyFox Ltd

In Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, SkyFox Ltd’s innovation involves top-of-the-hill aquaculture ponds capable of producing two tons of catfish twice a year, and nutrient-rich water for irrigating 25-acres at the base of the hill.  SkyFox will lease ponds and irrigation land and provide extension services to resource-poor farmers.

Project Alba

Project Alba has an innovative business model that allows for rapid dissemination of water management technologies to farmers in Cambodia.

Hydroponics Africa

In Kenya, Hydroponics Africa leverages the use of local materials to grow healthy plants and helps farmer to produce maximum yields on small area without use of soil, while using 80 percent less water.


Bhungroo guarantees food security and income growth to smallholder farmers on the India-Pakistan border who are vulnerable to extreme weather and lack irrigation facilities.  Using handmade pipes 10 to 15 centimeters in diameter, Bhungroo filters, injects, and stores rainwater underground for usage in lean periods.


MimosaTEK’s solution – a platform for precision agriculture in Vietnam – monitors and analyzes data on farms by sensors which to measure soil moisture, rain, wind, light, to recommend to farmers a precise irrigation schedule in real-time.

Lal Teer Seed Ltd

The Lal Teer Seed innovation combines locally-developed saline-tolerant vegetable seeds with easily adoptable methods for cultivating in high saline areas of Southern Bangladesh, and micro-finance linkages, ICT support, and extension advisory services.

University of Malawi

University of Malawi‘s innovation is a flask-wall mushroom growing house design for water use efficiency by smallholder farmers in Malawi.

WASTE Stichting

In Nilgiris District, Tamil Nadu, India the WASTE Stichting innovation will create a circular economy with black and grey water recycling for exotic vegetables cultivation.

Central University of Technology, Free State, South Africa

The Central University of Technology solution, made up of a mobile application, a web portal and SMS service and works by pooling together weather information through a network of sensors that is a drought early warning system that integrates indigenous (IK) and scientific drought forecasting approaches with an accuracy of up to 98 percent.

IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute Ltd

The IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute Ltd. SPONGE is an innovative irrigation technology – a techno-biological system – that greatly improves water utilization and supply in Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal. Using water from fog and dew, SPONGE increases water reliability in a region with abundant, but highly intermittent water availability.