Revolutionizing Agri-Food: Meet the Impact-Driven Entrepreneurs of 2023

Elevating the Pitch Competition Experience

Buckle up fellow entrepreneurs, innovators, and business enthusiasts, because something extraordinary is about to unfold in the heart of Toronto this November. The anticipation is building, and the stage is set for an event that promises to be spectacular. Welcome to the 2023 Seed Grants for New Ventures Pitch Competition, Co-presented by MEDA & D-Prize. 

On Saturday, November 4, 2023, The Marriott Eaton Centre in Toronto will host a gathering of some of the most brilliant minds in the world of social entrepreneurship for global development. The Pitch Competition is where a shared passion for innovation, entrepreneurship, and global impact drives every attendee. In the coming weeks, our finalists find their stage within this vibrant space, surrounded by a supportive community that understands the power of creativity and access to capital to fuel innovative solutions. 

The Exciting D-Prize and MEDA Collaboration

The 2023 Seed Grants for New Ventures Pitch Competition is not just about showcasing innovation; it’s about cultivating and celebrating real-world impact. This year, we’re thrilled to partner with D-Prize for an exciting live program where social entrepreneurs will pitch their Agri-Food business ventures. 

The most promising teams stand to win up to $10,000 in seed capital, generously provided by the Ron and Barbara Schlegel Family. 

Meet the Finalist Teams

Let’s dive into the heart of the competition by introducing you to the inspiring finalists who are here to revolutionize the Agri-Food landscape: 

Raitagyana – Nikki & Sushant

Meet Nikki and Sushant, the dynamic co-founders of Raitagyana, who are passionate about creating a sustainable food supply chain in rural Karnataka, India. With engineering backgrounds and a decade of global experience, they aim to empower Indian farmers. 

What sets Raitagyana apart is its holistic, community-centered approach. They integrate infrastructure, education, and market access for smallholder farmers. A key aspect of their strategy is infrastructure development, promising to construct and upgrade storage and drying facilities in soybean-producing districts. Equipped with cutting-edge technology, these facilities ensure optimal storage conditions, reduce moisture content, and protect against pest infestations. But it doesn’t stop there; Raitagyana provides comprehensive education and training on sustainable farming practices, crop management, pest control, and soil fertility enhancement. Their goal is to arm farmers with essential skills and knowledge for long-term success. 

Village Solar – Sungeni & Susanna

Meet Sungeni and Susanna, the visionary co-founders of Village Solar in Malawi. Sungeni is a 2022 D-prize Fellow and 2023 YALI Regional Leadership Center Southern Africa alumnus, while Susanna is a 2023 African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative Fellow (AWEC). Their mission is to address the significant challenge rural Malawian farmers face – limited access to electricity. 

Village Solar’s transformative approach involves providing affordable, durable, warranted pico solar lamps. These lamps empower farmers within the Lilongwe Agri-Cooperative Union, saving households up to US$35.83 annually. They also extend working hours, enabling farmers to engage in essential evening farming tasks while eliminating health risks associated with petroleum-based fuels and indoor air pollution. 

AgriEn Network – Yvonne Mtumbi Mwanza

Meet Yvonne Mtumbi Mwanza, the co-founder of AgriEn Network, a social enterprise in Zambia dedicated to supporting smallholder farmers through an accelerator program. Established in 2020, AgriEn addresses challenges such as limited access to affordable farming inputs, high input costs, and poor market access. 

AgriEn’s unique approach combines providing quality certified inputs, building farmers’ production capacity, and offering ecological zone-appropriate extension services. They support 150 farmers in the Sinda district, achieving an impressive 80% increase in seed loan recovery. Their commitment is evident as they walk with farmers throughout the farming cycle, reducing support costs and ensuring increased yields. 

Ibukia Shambani – Abdallah Mabrouck

Meet Abdallah Mabrouck, the founder of Ibukia Shambani, a not-for-profit organization in Tanzania dedicated to improving the lives of rural smallholder farmers. Their mission is to increase the productivity of African smallholder farmers by addressing challenges within local Agri-Food market systems. 

Ibukia Shambani’s holistic approach encompasses input distribution, input financing, crop insurance, training on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), post-harvest support, and creating Youth Village Entrepreneurs (YVE) groups. This comprehensive and community-focused approach addresses both immediate needs and long-term sustainability, empowering rural communities and enhancing food security. 

What Makes This Year’s Competition Special

The 2023 MEDA Pitch Competition isn’t just an annual tradition; it’s an evolution. This year, we’re breaking new ground and setting the stage for something exceptional. Let’s explore what makes this competition stand out and how it’s aligned with current entrepreneurial trends: 

A New Level of Impact: While past competitions have always fostered innovation, the focus is on impact-driven solutions this year. Each of our finalists has a mission to transform the Agri-Food landscape, not just in their local communities but on a global scale. It’s a testament to the increasing emphasis on businesses prioritizing social and environmental responsibility. 

Cross-Border Collaboration: What sets this year apart is the global collaboration that underpins it. Through our partnership with D-Prize, we’re showcasing social entrepreneurs and providing them with a platform to secure vital funding. This collaborative spirit reflects the growing trend of international partnerships and the recognition that solving global challenges requires a collective effort. 

Sustainability at the Core: Sustainability is not just a buzzword; it’s a guiding principle. This year’s finalists are committed to sustainable practices, whether creating a sustainable food supply chain, providing clean energy alternatives, or enhancing smallholder farming sustainability. It reflects the current shift towards businesses that prioritize environmental responsibility. 

Innovation in Agri-Food Systems: The Agri-Food sector is undergoing a transformation, and this year’s competition aligns perfectly with this trend. It’s not just about producing food; it’s about creating efficient, sustainable, and inclusive systems. Our finalists are at the forefront of this shift, offering innovative solutions that address critical challenges in Agri-Food systems. 

Community-Centric Approach: Another unique aspect of this year’s competition is the strong community-centric approach adopted by our finalists. They understand that real change begins at the grassroots level, and their projects reflect a commitment to empowering local communities. This aligns with the growing recognition of the importance of community-driven solutions in entrepreneurship. 

Secure Your Spot to Attend this Exclusive Event

The clock is ticking, and you’re running out of time to take advantage of our exclusive discount for the upcoming Convention. Register by October 11th, 2023, using promo code EARLYBIRD23, and you’ll earn a $100 discount off the General Registration rate. Secure your spot at a reduced rate today and join us for an unforgettable event! 

We can’t wait to welcome you to the MEDA Annual Convention. Register today and be part of something extraordinary! 

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  • MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates)

    MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty. We work in agri-food market systems, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Our success is measured by income, improved processes, increased knowledge, and the creation of decent work.

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