Indian agritech start-up among Earthshot Prize winners - GulfToday

Indian agritech start-up among Earthshot Prize winners

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.


Picture used for illustrative purposes.

An Indian agritech start-up S4S Technologies is among the five green innovators to win the £1 million Prince of Wales’ prestigious Earthshot Prize. On 7 November, at The Earthshot Prize Awards ceremony in Singapore, Prince William and The Earthshot Prize named Acción Andina, GRST, WildAid Marine Program, S4S Technologies, and Boomitra the 2023 Winners of The Earthshot Prize.

S4S Technologies’ solar-powered dryers and processing equipment combats food waste, enabling small-hold farmers to preserve crops and turn produce that might otherwise go to waste into valuable products.

“I choose to believe that future generations will look back on this decade as the point at which we globally took collective action for our planet – the moment we refused to accept the voices of denial and defeatism, and instead became the architects of change towards a healthy and sustainable world,” Prince William said during the ceremony.

During the ceremony, these five accomplished Winners, chosen from among the 15 innovators and entrepreneurs named as 2023 Earthshot Prize Finalists, were each awarded a catalytic £1 million prize to help scale their solutions and accelerate their growth and impact. The work of this third cohort of Earthshot Prize Winners spans the globe, protecting and restoring the environment and supporting local communities across six continents. The awards ceremony spotlighted the inspiring stories of all the 15 finalists eligible for this year’s Prize.

As the Earthshot website sates, much of India’s rural population relies on smallholder farming for their income and livelihoods. But every year about 30% of agricultural produce is wasted before it leaves the farms. This is because bumper crops and price fluctuations often force farmers to leave unsellable crops rotting in the fields. These wasted crops squander the precious energy and water used to grow them, demand additional resources for their disposal and cause income losses for small farmers, which can deepen rural poverty and exacerbate inequality.

Founded in 2013 by six university friends – Nidhi Pant, Vaibhav Tidke, Swapnil Kokte, Ganesh Bhere, Shital Somani, Tushar Gaware and Ashwin Pawade – S4S Technologies combats food waste, rural poverty, and gender inequality by helping smallholder female farmers preserve and market surplus produce. The organisation provides rural communities with cheaper solar-powered conduction dryers and food processing equipment to prepare their crops on-site, rather than using cold storage or other more expensive methods of conventional industrial food preservation. With a focus on supporting female farmers, S4S also supports its entrepreneurs in using the preserved waste to produce and sell valuable food products, such as ketchup. S4S creates a market, connecting commercial buyers to these products and returning most of the profits to the farmers who made them.

The website highlights that some 300,000 women smallholder farmers supported by S4S have recorded 10- 15% increases in their profits, while the 2,000 female entrepreneurs they partner with have seen incomes double or even triple. By 2025, S4S wants to extend their reach to three million smallholder farmers and 30,000 entrepreneurs. By 2026, they predict they will have reduced food waste by 1.2 million tonnes and removed the equivalent of 10 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Food waste, rural poverty and gender inequality are deeply intertwined challenges for the people of India. S4S’s innovative solution combines cutting- edge technology with the practical support and training needed to ensure women farmers can thrive and improve their livelihoods for themselves and their families. We are honoured by this recognition from The Earthshot Prize, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners across India and around the world to reduce food waste, protect our natural environment and empower women,” says Nidhi Pant, Co-Founder of S4S Technologies, as quoted on the website.

Prince William and his Royal Foundation launched the ambitious 10-year initiative in 2020, with the goal of funding 50 solutions to some of the planet’s most urgent environmental problems by 2030. Their challenge to the world is based on 5 ‘Earthshots’ – simple but ambitious and universal goals for 2030 that, if achieved, will repair the planet before irreversible damage occurs. Developed in collaboration with leading environmental experts, they are ‘Protect and Restore Nature’; ‘Clean our Air’; ‘Revive our Oceans’; ‘Build a Waste-Free World’; and ‘Fix our Climate’. The website states that they search the world for environmental solutions that show the greatest potential to scale to achieve the five Earthshots. Every year this decade, Prince William and a distinguished Prize Council will award £1 million Earthshot Prizes to five winners, one per Earthshot.

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