Innovative agritech business from Kenya wins $20K at EarthX E-Capital Summit
This year’s invitation-only, 5th Annual EarthX E-Capital Summit convened hundreds of investors, innovators, established companies, policymakers and more for the purpose of catalyzing powerful partnerships and inspiring investments that positively impact businesses, people and the planet.
The E-Capital Summit culminated in an award of $20,000 for the winner of the summit’s EarthX Climate Tech Prize: decentralized fertilizer producer Safi Organics. The innovative agritech business from Kenya rose to the top of a pool of 105 early-stage business applicants representing 12 countries.
The EarthX Climate Tech Prize is a collaboration between EarthX and the Austin Technology Incubator, and is co-sponsored by Lyda Hill Philanthropies and Biotech+ Hub at Pegasus Park.
Social Entrepreneurship for Smallholders
“Winning the EarthX Climate Tech Prize was a surprise but confirmation on the great work we are doing in changing the smallholder farmers globally, we believe the prize money will be utilized to validate the data on the efficacy of our fertilizer products, indeed this is a win for the Smallholder farmer across the developing countries,” said Samuel Rigu, prize winner and chief executive officer and founder of Safi Organics.
Safi Organics boasts social and environmental merits. The company uses technology exclusively licensed from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to downsize and decentralize fertilizer production using locally available labor and resources. In the process, the Kenya-based company lowers farming inputs, reduces logistical costs, increases production by up to 30% and increases customizability — all at the same price as conventional fertilizers and a net income increase of 50% for farmers. Beyond the smallholder farmer, benefits include carbon sequestration through the carbon richness of the product and a reduction in particulate emissions.
EarthX Climate Tech Prize
Early-stage climate tech companies with no more than $500,000 in dilutive funding and annual revenue less than $250,000 were invited to pitch investors. Judges included Dana Schneider, director of energy, sustainability and ESG for Empire State Realty Trust, a self-managed REIT that operates a portfolio of office and retail properties in Manhattan and the greater New York metropolitan area, including the Empire State Building, the World’s Most Famous Building; Geof Rochester, founder of GRC Advising, an advisory firm that develops investment and marketing strategies that drive social purpose, optimize networks and help scale brands for maximum potential; Michael Fletcher, serial entrepreneur, CEO of Ride TV and senior advisor to EarthX; and Dr. Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology and the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin.
Finalists are disrupting the industries of agtech and food, energy and power and the circular economy. Alongside Safi Organics, finalists were Botany AI, creating native proteins found in red meat through technology and fermentation; New Dominion Enterprises Inc., commercializing a novel inorganic liquid to improve the longevity and safety of lithium-ion batteries; and FLO Materials, developing an infinitely recyclable plastic-like material.
The EarthX Climate Tech Prize has a history of boosting early-stage companies. Last year’s prize runner up, energy efficient building coating EnKoat, secured Phase 1 NSF SBIR funding after the Summit and was featured in Cleantech Group’s 2020 “50 to Watch” list.
Results from the EarthX E-Capital Summit
Outside of the prize, startups that have participated in the E-Capital Summit have gone on to raise more than $500 million in funding from investors from around the world. Investors and businesses alike have found meaningful partnerships and tangible progress from coming together with a collective focus on advancing global sustainability.
Among this year’s notable speakers were: David J. Hayes, special assistant to the president on climate policy at The White House; Vanessa Chan, chief commercialization officer of the US Department of Energy; Russell Read, group managing partner of the C Change Group and former chief investment officer of CalPERS and the Alaska Permanent Fund; and Jonathan Webb, chief executive officer and founder of AppHarvest.