Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development Announces 17 Award Nominees at World Water Week

17 innovations to increase water availability and efficiency receive up to $3 million in funding and acceleration support

For Immediate Release

Monday, September 1, 2014
USAID Press Office
+1-202-712-4320 | Email: | Twitter: @USAIDPress

STOCKHOLM – Today at World Water Week in Stockholm, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Sweden’s development agency (Sida), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of The Netherlands (MFA-NL) announced 17 award nominees for their program, Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development. Overall, the program partners will provide $32 million in funding to game-changing innovations that can produce more food using less water.

Water scarcity is one of the most pressing development challenges of the early 21st century.

Between 2000 and 2050, the world’s population is projected to grow from almost seven billion now to over nine billion. During this same period, water demand is projected to increase by 55 percent globally, with the number of people affected by water scarcity and stress continuing to rise.  As more than 70 percent of global water use occurs in the food value chain, feeding the world in 2050 will be difficult unless the global community finds better ways to enable food production with less water and makes more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.

Round 1 award nominees will receive between $100,000 and $3 million in funding and acceleration support to realize their vision. Initially, all awardees will receive Securing Water for Food assistance. However, they must continue to prove the viability of their innovation to receive future funding.

In its inaugural round, the Securing Water for Food GCD received 520 applications from universities, startups, and NGOs in more than 93 countries. Innovations ranged from novel technology to simple concepts reengineered for developing countries. All 39 finalists are at the cutting edge of innovation and have already demonstrated success during pilots. The 17 award nominees stood out as exceptional initiatives with high potential for transformative impact.

To learn more about the Securing Water for Food Round 1 award nominees go, and follow @SecuringWater on Twitter. In spring 2015, Securing Water for Food will issue the next call for proposals.

To date, USAID and its partners have pooled over $200 million to fund five Grand Challenges for Development, demonstrating a mutual commitment to science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Learn more about the Grand Challenges for Development program at

Award nominees for Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenges for Development Round 1 include:

  • Adaptive Symbiotic Technologies (Worldwide): A fungus found in Yellowstone National Parkthat reduces water consumption, increases drought tolerance, and enhances crop yields with no negative impact when applied to seeds.
  • aQysta Holding BV (India): A low-cost, hydro-powered irrigation pump that does not require any fuel or electricity, has no operating expenses, and does not emit any polluting greenhouse gases.
  • Arcadis (Nepal): A sustainable, innovative freshwater management system that prevents groundwater salinization in coastal areas..
  • Aybar Engineering PLC (Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan):  Broad Bed and Furrows (BBF), which are constructed at planting time in order to drain excess water away from crops, that use lighter-weight materials appropriate for Ethiopian farmer needs and are helping farmers increase yields, plant earlier and more often, conserve soil, store excess water, and make more land usable for cultivation.
  • Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V. (Tajikistan): An innovative combination of low-cost rainwater harvesting and greenhouse technology that allows vegetable production during colder months when no water for agricultural production is typically available.
  • Driptech (India): A high-quality, low-cost drip irrigation system that uses an innovative laser punching technology that ensures uniform water application at the root zone of all crops in a field. The system provides the same benefits of drip irrigation that large-scale farmers use at 70% lower cost.
  • FutureWater (Mozambique): Simple-to-operate drones that provide farmers with real-time information on soil and crops. Information provided by drones will enhance farmers’ use of limited resources, maximize yields, and simultaneously reduce unnecessary waste of resources.
  • International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (Egypt, Yemen): A market-driven model that makes salt-tolerant and resilient non-GMO crop genotypes available to smallholder farmers through seed production and distribution facilities and by providing training on planting and growing best practices.
  • MetaMeta (Pakistan): A non-GMO, salt-tolerant potato that requires very little fresh water for cultivation. Scaling up access to this potato will contribute to better use of lands and waters that have high salinity and will reduce the pressure on freshwater resources.
  • MyRain LLC (India): A customized irrigation system design tool that removes the complexity of drip irrigation design and installation for small agro-retailers across India. The application enhances water efficiency by up to 50%, increase crop yields by at least 30%, improves farmers’ incomes, and helps promote a more efficient distribution network.
  • Practical Action (Bangladesh): A low-cost model that transforms previously unused sandy islands that appear after reach rainy season into large-scale pumpkin farms.
  • Puralytics (Mexico): A reusable, chemical-free solar-activated water treatment product that floats on a body of water to kill viruses, bacteria, and protozoa in water used for agriculture. This water can also serve as clean drinking water for farm workers and their families.
  • Reel Gardening (South Africa): A simple, quick, and effective biodegradable paper tape that encases organic fertilizer and seeds at the correct depth and distance apart, resulting in a potential saving of 80% in water consumption.
  • TAHMO (Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania): An innovative solar-powered sensor system that delivers accurate, localized, and timely meteorological and water resource information to farmers multiple times per day via a mobile device.  
  • Wageningen University & Research Centre (Chile, China, Vietnam, Egypt): A non-GMO, salt-tolerant quinoa that can enable significant food production in saline soils, without the need for fresh water.
  • Waterpads® (Turkey): A long-lasting, biodegradable water buffer for crops – based at the plant roots – that can repeatedly absorb, store, and release water directly to plant roots on demand. This dramatically increases crop yields with less water usage, even under saline, extremely hot, and dry conditions.
  • World Hope International (Sierra Leone): Affordable greenhouses targeted to women that address food insecurity, conserve water, and promote the equal participation of women in the economy.