Agricultural fungicides, which combat a number of plant blights and diseases, are estimated to prevent the loss of up to 95% of annual crop yields worldwide. At the same time, many current fungicides are petrochemicals that come with major financial and environmental costs from toxicity and chemical buildup in the soil. Organic fungicides offer a safer solution, but are currently much less effective and more expensive than chemical fungicides.
This E-Team, calling itself Gen2 Agro, is developing a next-generation organic fungicide that is over 20% more effective than current organic options, making it comparable in efficacy to chemical alternatives. Gen2 Agro’s product is composed of naturally occurring, non-genetically modified bacteria that has been found to directly attack fungi, secreting byproducts that suppress fungal growth. The team's fungicide will work for some of the world’s most valued crops, including soybeans, wheat, and potatoes.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $16,500
While the world’s small-scale rural farmers have traditionally been overlooked in global markets, they’re gaining increased access to essential services including financial tools (banking, loans) and IT resources (mobile, internet). At the same time, there has been a global spike in demand for organic, fair-trade products, and small-scale farmers are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity while at the same time generating employment and income. The challenge for most small-scale farmers is getting their goods to market.
This E-Team is developing the Mobile Information Aggregator (MIA), a mobile application/tool that farmers can use to gain access to global markets. Though a text message on a simple cell phone, the MIA tracks the frequency, quantity of production, and prices that farmers sell via a text message, which then links into a central database system. The MIA provides historical and real-time data to farming cooperatives so that they can make better business decisions, and will help this E-team to understand what cooperatives are producing and help farmers aggregate demand, connect with markets and increase their income.
The team has launched a company, Supply Change, a fair trade, organic fruit company which uses fruit that would otherwise be wasted, processing it into high-value, high-quality products to provide income for farmers and nutritious food for consumers. Individual farmers send their harvest information to their cooperative on a weekly basis via a simple text message. This harvest information is then fed into a central database, producing real-time data that cooperative managers access to make better business decisions to maximize farmers current production, matching supply and market demand. All of this before the food rots and is wasted.