The 2022 Pears Challenge, a prestigious Israeli early-stage venture builder focused on global development challenges has launched its 2022 program with this year’s focus being; “Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in Ghana”.
The Pears Challenge, operated by the Pears Program for Global Innovation, an Israeli base NGO, was born from the realization that putting the infamous Israeli innovation to the task of addressing global challenges, holds much potential for significant breakthroughs and progress.
In collaboration with the Embassy of Israel in Ghana, the Israel Trade and Economic Mission to Ghana, the Ghana Investment Promotion Center, and many other prestigious public, private, and academic sector partners; the 2022 Pears Challenge aims to develop disruptive agri-tech solutions based specifically on the needs and market conditions in Ghana and West Africa. The objective is to encourage outstanding Israeli technology entrepreneurs to develop innovative, sustainable, and financially viable technology-based solutions that can address critical needs and increase the resilience of farmers.
The Pears Challenge has selected a cohort of 25 experienced entrepreneurs and innovators from Israel that are motivated to help the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers increase the quality, quantity, and safety of food production while preserving natural resources and local biodiversity. The comprehensive program will introduce the cohort to the challenges of smallholder farmers and sustainable agriculture and food systems in the developing world. They will then study the Ghanaian market, analyzing pain points, breaking down persistent and cross-cutting issues, identifying strengths and potential leverage points, and narrowing down the possibilities for innovation. Finally, the program will proceed to expedite the process of exploration, ideation, venture building, field validation & refinement.
In selecting Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems in Ghana as this year’s focus, the Pears challenge has set the goal of raising the resilience of food systems worldwide, in ways that strengthen their functionality and enhance their ability to remain robust, including in the face of future shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many glaring weaknesses and inequalities that characterize agriculture and food systems worldwide. The future of global food systems is connected to the future and wellbeing of the over 500 million smallholder farmers who produce 80% of the food consumed in the developing world. Many of these individuals live below the poverty line and are increasingly subject to shocks and stressors. In the vision for this year’s challenge, supporting and strengthening smallholder farmers and the systems around them with sustainable technologies is essential for the future capacity of global food systems to equitably and adequately feed the world.
In Ghana itself, smallholder farming remains the primary way most Ghanaians earn their living, with over 50% of the workforce engaged in agriculture. Over 85% of farms in Ghana are classified as smallholder farms, often being in remote areas with poor access to infrastructure, technology, capital, or supply chains. This vast agricultural platform holds within it a vast business potential if yields can be raised and inefficiencies addressed. Addressing the issue of sustainable agriculture and food systems also has the potential to strengthen food security, create jobs, and raise the economic prosperity of many Ghanaian families, boosting overall economic growth and sustainability in Ghana and West Africa.
There’s a growing recognition that the private sector’s role in contributing to sustainable development in agriculture indeed has immense potential for profitable growth. According to the UN’s 2017 report ‘Better Business, Better World’, low-income food markets could generate between US$155-265 billion per year.
Israel is known to be a world leader in agriculture, despite facing less than optimal conditions for food production. Two-thirds of Israel’s land is semi-arid or arid, much of the soil is of poor quality, there is a shortage of natural water resources, and its location is far from key export markets. Despite these challenges, Israel has undergone an impressive agricultural transformation, maintained national food security, and established a thriving export industry. Israel leads the world in water recycling, cow-milk productivity, tomato yield, and post-harvest grain loss prevention (0.5% loss versus 20% globally). Israel’s innovation ecosystem was central to its success in agriculture and water management. It provides solutions to problems faced by farmers and private actors along the value chain and continually develops new opportunities for the sector. In the last five years, private investment has more than doubled, and a third of the companies in the sector have newly emerged. Effective problem-solving and out-of-the-box creative thinking, coupled with advanced technological skills and know-how have helped Israel build a successful agriculture sector under conditions of considerable adversity.
Therefore, Israeli technology and innovative spirit are positioned in an exciting place to develop needs-based and appropriate AgriTech and FoodTech solutions for emerging markets like Ghana, which share similar climatic and market-related challenges. The Pears Challenge hopes to harness the wealth of Israeli knowledge and expertise and act as an ally and partner to stakeholders in the Ghana agriculture sector in the effort to grow and advance the sector.
Given the broad scope of the challenge, the rich potential in providing solutions, and the world-renowned Israeli innovation and agri-tech capabilities, the 2022 Pears Challenge is an exciting program to follow. The 2022 Pears challenge is a collaborative venture and invites Ghanaian organizations, corporates, distributors, SMEs, investors, and stakeholders who are interested in the development and future implementation of new agriculture technologies in Ghana to engage with the program.