Guest Column | March 24, 2015

Securing Water for Food: Investing in High-Potential Innovations

Donna Vincent Roa

By Donna Vincent Roa

Securing Water for Food aims to source and accelerate game-changing solutions that will increase water availability and promote efficient use of water in agriculture.

Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development launched its third call for proposals and is seeking post-pilot, groundbreaking innovations at the water-food nexus that have high potential to scale. This $12.5 million global call focuses on advanced technologies and business models, as well as innovations that prioritize the engagement of women and highlight their role in the agriculture value chain.

According to USAID, the new Middle East Water Security Initiative will also provide up to an additional $2.5 million for innovations implemented in the MENA region.

Awardees will receive between $100,000 and $3 million in funding and acceleration support to bring their innovations to scale.

While SWFF funding takes the form of a grant rather than an actual investment, the SWFF Founding Partners -- USAID, the Government of Sweden, and the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of the Netherlands -- play a role similar to that of investors and are more involved in an innovator's success than a traditional grant program through the offering of acceleration support and other forms of technical assistance.

The founding partners established the Securing Water for Food Technical Assistance Facility (SWFF TAF), an enterprise accelerator that provides services to and direct involvement with these Grand Challenge Innovators to support their market-driven business development, commercial growth, and scaling in a development context.

The SWFF TAF provides hands-on acceleration work planning, one-on-one mentoring/coaching, facilitation of debt and equity financing, and facilitated participation in Investors’ Circles, marketplace presentations, trade shows, and technology fairs. Additionally, we anticipate providing financial support to business acceleration entities or brokers that will deliver technical assistance to water innovators.

In its inaugural round, Securing Water for Food selected 17 winners out of 520 applications from universities, start-ups, and NGOs in more than 93 countries. Innovations ranged from crops for saline environments to flying water sensor technologies.

Are you interested in helping produce more food with less water in developing countries?

SWFF seeks innovators who understand the local environment, understand the needs of the end users of their technology, and have sustainable innovations that benefit the poor and women.

Apply to the Securing Water for Food here. Applications will be accepted until 5:00 PM ET on May 22, 2015.

This Request for Applications (RFA) is a funding competition to source and accelerate innovations that will enable the production of more food with less water or make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.

Donna is Chief of Party for the Securing Water for Food Technical Assistance Facility and is responsible for the overall management, administration and delivery of enterprise acceleration services provided to SWFF innovators.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of and should not be attributed to USAID.