Innovation with a Purpose: Strengthening Food Systems through Technology

Food systems are decades behind many other sectors in adopting technology innovation, particularly in developing countries. The recent advancements in Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies present a major opportunity to accelerate food systems transformation. These technologies could fundamentally shape the demand landscape, enhance value-chain linkages and increase the effectiveness of the production landscape. While many of these technological innovations are in the early stages of development, these technologies could deliver significant positive impacts in food systems by 2030, if scaled properly. 


In 2017, the Food System Initiative initiated the “Innovation with a Purpose”, a project focussed on the role of technology innovations in addressing food systems challenges. The workstream produced an insights report, launched in Davos 2018, on the role of technology innovation in accelerating food systems transformation, including highlighting twelve transformative technologies that could deliver significant impacts by 2030. 


In 2018, the Innovation with a Purpose project will focus on two key lenses to catalyse technology for food system innovation: (1) country programs that support technology entrepreneurs, private sector, government, and civil society in scaling technology-driven solutions for food systems transformation and (2) cross-cutting priorities that address key food system paint points using technology solutions and developing a roadmap for scaling. The project will pursue three main avenues for action:

  1. Strengthen the enabling environment by connecting innovators with food system leaders. We will develop networks of leaders and champions to drive collaboration and innovation, as well as strengthen the innovation ecosystem by enabling policy, investment, infrastructure, business support services, etc.

    1. Filling information mismatches: Introducing technology players into Forum networks to bring a tech lens

    2. Forging partnerships: By connecting local innovators and agriculture practitioners

    3. Supporting policy making: By creating local networks that facilitate policy-oriented dialogue and action

    4. Developing collaborations among innovators and country leaders: In the 21 countries leading New Vision for Agriculture-affiliated initiatives in Asia, Africa and Latin America

  2. Catalyze opportunities for scaling technological innovation for food systems transformation. The Forum will serve as a platform to catalyze, support and advance new initiatives to develop and scale technology solutions on the ground. This includes supporting lighthouse projects such as:

    1. Regional technology transformation agenda in Kenya through the data solutions platform and in Maharashtra (India)  through the drones and data utility platform

    2. Enabling technology solutions that can improve traceability and transparency in food value chains

    3. Facilitate collaboration and alignment to increase adoption of sustainable animal feedstock

    4. Supporting partner-driven initiatives – including digital programme led by Grow Asia partnership

  3. Develop strategies for inclusive innovation and scaling. The initiative will develop new insights, knowledge and strategies to address key issues and opportunities related to scaling technology innovation in food systems. Depending on partner and stakeholder priorities, this could address:

    1. Examples of business model innovation to overcome key challenges

    2. Identification of opportunities for pre-competitive collaboration among innovators to benefit food systems

    3. Development of strategies for blended financing to enable and scale innovations

    4. Dialogue to discuss policy and public-investment priorities to establish “innovation ecosystems”

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