CGIAR’s 2019 Inspire Challenge great news for smallholder farmers

APPLY NOW: CGIAR’s 2019 Inspire Challenge awarding up to 750,000 USD for innovative big data solutions that transform lives of smallholder farmers

[10  April 2019 – CALI, COLOMBIA] – The 2019 launch of CGIAR’s Inspire Challenge is great news for innovators looking to transform the agriculture sector, with smallholder farmers in the lead.

The CGIAR Inspire Challenge is the innovation process of the Platform for Big Data in Agriculture and seeks to source and foster new solutions for digital agriculture in developing economies.

The Challenge has awarded a total of two million USD to date to innovative pilot projects using big data approaches to advance agricultural research and development. This year, the BIG DATA Platform will award up to 750,000 USD to two categories of winners: three pilot projects using big data tools in innovative ways to transform the lives of smallholder farmers, and two scale-up grants to two of last year’s winners who can demonstrate exceptional results, proven viability, and potential for impact.

First launched in 2017, the process saw a significant drop in “basic research” submissions and the number of submissions targeting smallholder farmers grow from about 8% in 2017 to over 70% 2018.

“In order to democratise the digital agriculture innovation space we need solutions that are relevant to users outside of Silicon Valley,” said coordinator of the BIG DATA Platform, Brian King.

“Although there is an array of digital innovation places and processes in developing economies, the rate at which these innovations take root in the agriculture sector remains slow.”

“To change the game in development agriculture, we need to apply the best of innovation strategy and build the evidence base around solutions. The increase in percentage of Challenge submission targeting smallholder farmers shows that we are improving upon that process,”  said Brian King.

Advances in computing power, data storage, and data communications over the last 30 years have given rise to powerful tools for helping make farming and food systems more precise, profitable, and adaptive. However, digital agriculture worldwide has not realized its full potential.  Despite active promotion from industry, the real rates of adoption of precision agriculture have been slow in most industrialized economies, and digital agriculture technologies have found even less of a foothold in developing economies.

As with previous years, Inspire Challenge winners will be awarded during the annual convention. The Platform is proud to announce this year’s convention will be held in Hyderabad, India, 16-18 October, and hosted by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

About the Inspire Challenge

The Inspire Challenge is an initiative that challenges research organizations to partner with industry in order to leverage public good data–especially CGIAR data–to solve intractable challenges at scale. It is committed to helping digital innovations find a foothold and a path to scale in the agriculture sector.

The BIG DATA  Platform also introduced scale-up funds to support pilots with the greatest scaling and impact potential to mature further and strengthen their business case to the point that they are able to attract investment capital.

Challenge Categories for 2019

How to apply

1. Partner up. Inspire Challenge proposals must be a collaboration between a person or team internal to the CGIAR and an external partner. Challengers can partner-up using this simple partnership matching form, open till 3 June 2019.

2. Submit your application. Once Challengers have formed their collaborative team by aligning with a CGIAR partner, they can submit their application using this form before 17 June 2019.

You can find more information about the application process on the Inspire and FAQ pages.

The 2018 Inspire Challenge winners

In 2018 the Platform received over 130 excellent proposals, five of which were selected to receive US$100,000 to put their ideas into practice. The Platform also awarded a total of US$250,000 in scale-up grants to three of the 2017 winners.

Some of the previous winners’ early results include:

  • reaching 32,237 wheat producers in India with agricultural advisory messages, increasing knowledge on best agricultural practices by 78 percent,
  • developing a chatbot that delivers key information to dairy farmers in Kenya, with 92% of dairy farmers reporting to have changed their farming practices based on information received through the chatbot,
  • launching a ‘laptop-lab’ device for accurate crop pathogen surveillance and diagnostics in real time, demonstrating the first ever accurate identification of individual yellow rust strains just as the disease was starting to emerge in the field.

For more information about the winning proposals, visit the 2018 Challenge page.

Social Media

Engage with the Challenge launch online using #InspireChallenge and #BigDataInAg. Follow the Big Data Platform on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn for updates.



CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources.

The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture embraces the power of big data analytics, supporting CGIAR as it becomes a leader in generating actionable data-driven insights. It builds capacity throughout CGIAR to generate and manage big data, assisting CGIAR and its partners’ efforts to comply with open access/open data principles to unlock important research and datasets. It also empowers researchers to strengthen data analytical capacity, developing practical big data tools and services in a coordinated way, and it addresses critical gaps, both organizational and technical, expanding the horizon of CGIAR research. The Platform is co-led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).


For more information or interview opportunities, please contact Marianne McDade, Communications Coordinator, CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture,

April 15, 2019

Hannah Craig

Junior Communications Consultant
CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture
Cali, Colombia


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