AgResults is a $152 million multilateral initiative that uses Pay-for-Results prize competitions to incentivize, or “pull”, the private sector to overcome agricultural market barriers by investing in innovative research and delivery solutions that improve the lives of smallholder farmers. At our core we are an experiential learning initiative, continuously building evidence on what works, and what does not, in using prize competitions to spur sustainable market change.Read more about our approach
Smallholder Farmers Reached
Current and Past Projects
Prize Funds Awarded (approx)
March 5, 2021
“If Africa wants to be ready to address the challenges it is facing in its food and agriculture systems to become more resilient and inclusive, it’s urgent that African agriculture satisfies the food and nutrition needs of its growing populations.”
Dr. Jonas Chianu, Chief Agricultural Economist from the African Development Bank, offered this call to action as part of his keynote address on Day 2 of the “Scaling Agricultural Innovations through Commercialization for Sustainable Food System Transformation.” Co-hosted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this webinar series explored how research institutions and private companies should collaborate to scale agricultural technologies and strengthen food systems over three days (March 2-4). AgResults joined a panel on Day 2 to demonstrate how Pay-for-Results prizes can create a supportive enabling environment.
Using presentations and breakout rooms, Day 1 of the series looked at how partnerships between research institutions and private companies can foster sustainable market models. The conversations illuminated that although scaling up any agricultural innovation is challenging, the arena becomes much more complex when those technologies are focused on social impact, not just productivity.
Day 2 focused on how public and private actors can create an enabling environment that facilitates scale-up of agricultural technologies. Marcella McClatchy from the Gates Foundation set the stage, explaining that government regulations, standards, and access to finance all contribute to shaping an enabling environment that encourages scale.
After Dr. Chianu’s keynote address urging collaboration across public and private sectors, Moderator Garron Hansen of Chemonics International engaged the different panelists to share their experiences shaping enabling environments.
Ndidi Nwuneli from Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition Ltd started off the discussion, emphasizing how supportive political and financial frameworks encourage sustainable scale-up of technologies.
“If you don’t address finance and policy issues, then you are setting yourself up for failure,” said Ms. Nwuneli. “Policy must be ecosystem-focused and must be done at the national and local levels.”
During his remarks, Rodrigo Ortiz illustrated how AgResults’ prize competitions actively anticipate and address enabling environment influences through strategic design. By structuring the competition to account for factors like access to finance, government policies, and time to build trust, AgResults embeds sustainability into its design to drive scaling of agricultural technologies.
“The reason we use prizes is because they offer a unique value-add over traditional funding. Prizes heighten awareness and create an opportunity to inform and mobilize,” Mr. Ortiz explained. “That market awareness is necessary for uptake and growth of future demand.”
Several panelists from the public sector highlighted the government’s role in setting standards to drive commercialization.
“We need farmer education to help them adopt the right practices and use the right technologies,” said Peter Kaigwara, Director of Market Surveillance for the Kenya Bureau of Standards. “We need to increase the testing capacity along the entire value chain.”
Alex Dodoo of the Ghana Standards Authority agreed, saying that the government needs to create a framework for measuring progress.
“The government needs to develop metrics to measure specific outcomes that align with our goals of commercialization,” Mr. Dodoo said.
Day 2 was an opportunity to reaffirm that collective action among public and private stakeholders is needed to ensure that technologies are accessible for smallholder farmers across the continent and the world.
“The already well-known barriers to scaling agricultural innovations must be systematically removed to create impact and adoption,” Dr. Chianu said. “Sharing of responsibilities must concretely begin now.”
Drawing from the discussions over the first two days, Day 3 looked to the future of food systems to understand which types of interventions will work best to commercialize agricultural technologies. The panelists shared a range of perspectives on how best to incorporate these goals into real policies and investment decisions.
In this way, the webinar series effectively engaged research institutions and the private sector to answer the question of how best to accelerate the scaleup of key innovations to improve food safety and nutrition in 21st century food systems.
For more information about the Scaling Agricultural Innovations through Commercialization for Sustainable Food System Transformation, including supplementary materials, visit the event page....
March 3, 2021
By Rodrigo Ortiz
As the world prepares to recover economically from COVID-19, it’s key that we find ways to scale agricultural innovations so that the most vulnerable are included in the path forward. Smallholder farmers must be able to access innovations to improve their resilience to external shocks and to strengthen food systems. Prize competitions, such as those designed and implemented by AgResults, are an effective way to actively engage the private sector in this scaling, using monetary incentives to show businesses why it is lucrative to invest resources in a yet untapped but developing market.
Yet prize competitions do not occur in a vacuum. They take place in a specific context and thus are subject to the policies and influences that shape that enabling environment ecosystem. For example, governmental control on commodity prices could stifle the entry of new actors and market growth. Our experience is that more liberal policies incentivize innovation and sustainability.
By anticipating influences in the enabling environment – such as access to finance, policy, and the time to test and adopt new technologies – and crafting the prize structure accordingly, AgResults’ Pay-for-Results model embeds the goal of post-project sustainability into the intervention right from the design stage. In this way, AgResults’ prize competitions can create an enabling environment that supports the delivery and scale-up of agricultural technologies to smallholder farmers.
Although prize competitions use monetary incentives to initially encourage the private sector to act differently, we have learned that it’s crucial to facilitate relationships with financial institutions early to establish timely cash flow. Prizes spark interest for the private sector and encourage them to venture into untapped markets. Prize competitions demand innovation, but for the private sector, innovating means deviating from ‘normal’ operations and putting capital at risk. The speed of adoption and scaling hinges on private sector competitors reinvesting short-term profits and prizes. Prize competitions provide prizes and incentives allowing smaller producers to reinvest their earning and prizes until they become credit worthy. Only with continued access to credit can businesses afford to reallocate resources and restructure their operations to achieve desired scale in the shorter term.
In Tanzania, AgResults’ competition built in a step early on to bring financial institutions and competing dairy input suppliers together. Two banks demonstrated the available credit facilities to competing dairy input suppliers, discussing their specific situations and laying the groundwork for future loans. By convening these meetings early on, AgResults encouraged the competing businesses to think more deeply about mobilizing funds and created the impetus for sustained relationships with banks that will be critical to their long-term scaling of technologies for dairy farmers.
It’s essential to anticipate political economy influences – particularly the strict policies that often accompany commodities – when designing competitions. Rather than seeking out contexts with ‘positive’ government policies, the key is to look for the absence of hindering or fluctuating policies. Such policies can constrain the market when prize-driven competition starts to bubble up. These same policies will stifle chances of scale-up into a new sector or through new distribution channels.
Our competition in Zambia, which aimed to increase consumption of Vitamin A biofortified products, ran into governmental roadblocks because it was targeting a staple and highly politicized food commodity. Commodity markets are often vulnerable to fluctuating policies and political interventions. Price and export controls and distortions deterred maize millers and seed companies from investing in sales and distribution, ultimately stalling the competition before it ever took off.
In contrast, an open government stance on exports and trade can pave a path to widespread adoption of agricultural technologies. In Nigeria, a more open governmental approach around export of maize encouraged the preconditions would translate scaling of AflasafeTM into increased trade of high-quality maize. AgResults ran workshops and events to encourage competitors to lobby the government to set a standard for aflatoxin levels in crops, focusing efforts locally and regionally to influence policies that directly impacted their operations. As the competition progressed, we continued to engage the government for post-competition regulation – all of which hinged on the existing approach to encourage market growth rather than overly control it.
Because smallholder farmers are risk-averse, they need time to observe the efficacy of a technology before committing precious resources. We’ve learned to build in time for early adopters to test a new product so they can trust the process and be convinced of its utility before expanding to widespread adoption.
The first few years of the Nigeria project started slowly. Competitors that joined the project initially worked with a small number of farmers because they wanted to test the product and see evidence that it worked before promoting it more widely among their farmers. Because so many competitors insisted on testing AflasafeTM on demonstration plots, adoption and participation were limited in the competition’s early years. This delay taught us that building in time for early adopters to test a new product would eventually expand the competitor pool as late adopters observed the benefits of investments and risks taken by more pioneering companies. And eventually, the entire market system benefited as use of AflasafeTM scaled.
AgResults weighs the influence of a range of enabling environment elements on project context when designing interventions. That way, we can better set up the potential for scaling from the start and proactively develop a market-based incentive scheme to stimulate initial demand and overcome food security challenges. As we continue to embed plans for sustainability at the design stage to address – and overcome, as needed – enabling environment influences, we can more strategically encourage the private sector to play a central role in scaling technologies. And as these technologies get into the hands of smallholder farmers, we can set the preconditions for future food systems that are stronger and more resilient....
February 26, 2021
This week, AgResults joined public and private sector experts from around the world at the UN Sustainable Development Transformation Forum (February 22-26) to discuss how mechanisms such as financing, governance, and technology can fuel the necessary shifts to make societies more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive.
Entirely virtual, the Forum was structured as a series of five two-hour webinars to engage a global audience. Day 2 (February 23) focused on the role of partnerships to provide the financing and investment needed to drive sustained market growth. AgResults approached this topic from the angle of Pay-for-Results (PfR) incentives. Moderator David O’Connor of the UN Office of Sustainable Development kicked off the session by recognizing how valuable partnerships can be.
“Investments must span multiple sectors and institutions,” Mr. O’Connor said. “Some of the needed investments will be largely public while others are largely private. PPPs may be valuable in leveraging assets of multiple actors who bring their respective strengths and resources to the partnerships.”
Here, AgResults presented its learning on how PfR incentives motivate partnerships that span entire value chains to make market systems more productive and resilient. Parasto Hamed delved into AgResults’ prize competition model that uses monetary incentives to encourage new relationships among value chain actors, citing evidence from Nigeria and Kenya. These partnerships establish innovative behaviors and new flows of technology and capital that have the potential to be scaled.
“Prize competitions allow for experimentation,” Ms. Hamed said. “They encourage new partnerships that drive scale-up and transform market systems to make them more sustainable and resilient.”
Ms. Hamed joined a dynamic group of panelists, which included David Horan of the University of Dublin, Havard Halland at the OECD Development Center, and Daniel Platz from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Each presenter highlighted a different angle of partnerships and how they exhibit flexibility, diversity, and ability to mobilize actors and resources. They illustrated how allocating financial resources to create resilient infrastructure for partnerships will be critical in the years ahead.
To wrap up the session, Colm Foy of the UN Office of Sustainable Development reiterated the importance for collective action.
“It’s only with a coalition of financing partners that the SDGs have any hope of being achieved,” Mr. Foy said. “The financing gap is stark, but this conversation shows that there is hope that with such partnerships, we can find the resources to reach the goals.”
To access materials from the UN Sustainable Development Transformation Forum, visit the conference page....
February 25, 2021
Ahead of the Food Systems Summit later this year, the question of how to enable vulnerable populations to access agricultural technologies has never been more crucial. From March 2-4, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are co-organizing “Scaling Agricultural Innovations through Commercialization for Sustainable Food System Transformation,” a series of webinars that will explore how research institutions and private companies should collaborate to scale agricultural technologies. On Day 2, AgResults shares how it accounts for the influence of the enabling environment while designing prize competitions that drive long-term changes in behaviors—in other words, embedding sustainability from the start of the intervention.
The webinars will systematically examine how to commercialize agricultural technologies going from companies’ perspectives and motivations to the enabling environment to the future of food systems transformation. On Day 1, discussions will focus on how partnerships between research institutions and private companies can foster sustainable market models.
Day 2 shifts the focus to enabling environments, underlining the need for deliberate and consistent interventions within the targeted value chain and the larger ecosystem. The session will begin with a keynote address from Dr. Jonas Chianu, Chief Agricultural Economist from the African Development Bank. Then the conversation will move to the role of policies and other incentives – including AgResults’ Pay-for-Results prize competition model – to create an enabling environment that drives the delivery of technologies, particularly to smallholder farmers.
The panel on Day 2 will feature:
During his remarks, Rodrigo Ortiz will illustrate how AgResults’ prize competitions actively anticipate and address enabling environment influences through strategic design. By structuring the competition to account for factors like access to finance, government policies, and time to build trust, AgResults embeds sustainability into its design to drive scaling of agricultural technologies.
Day 3 looks to the future of food systems, asking how to learn from the first two days to effectively design new interventions to commercialize agricultural technologies. By considering the implications of these past experiences, IITA and the Gates Foundation hope that research institutions and private sector actors will be better positioned to accelerate the scaleup of these key innovations to improve food safety and nutrition.
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By Orin Hasson
Orin Hasson is a Senior Investment Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and serves as the current AgResults Steering Committee Chair.
“How do we best structure an advance market commitment for agriculture?” was the crux of the call I got from Rebekah Young, then at Finance Canada, eleven years ago. I had just started working at the Gates Foundation. We discussed how best to incentivize the private sector to solve problems faced by the majority of the poorest people on Earth: smallholder farmers.
The $152 million AgResults initiative that resulted two years later — with the additional support of the British, Australian, and American aid agencies and facilitated by the World Bank — is unique. It manages to be both a complex multi-donor fund that facilitates multilateral coordination and learning and a very flexible initiative that can turn on a dime based on what we’re seeing that worked or failed. Our Secretariat, run to date by Deloitte, has collected the feedback and facilitated the frank conversations necessary to do this.
In 2016, AgResults launched one of the largest-ever humanitarian prizes, the $30 million Brucellosis vaccine prize. Four years later, we have more than a dozen competitors striving to design a novel best-in-class vaccine, but we are no more certain if the prize will be claimed by the ten-year finish line. AgResults has had two clearly failed projects, focused on legume seeds in Uganda and biofortified maize in Zambia, and two that have clearly jump-started products critical to smallholders, AflasafeTM in Nigeria and on-farm storage in Kenya. And in addition to the Brucellosis vaccine prize, there are five ongoing Pay-for-Results efforts: reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Vietnam, improving dairy production in Tanzania, making aquaculture in Indonesia more efficient, enhancing collective crop storage in Senegal, and distributing an improved Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine across East Africa.
From the start, our purpose was to set up AgResults as a learning initiative. Compiling this toolkit is part of that intention. One of the reasons Pay-for-Results mechanisms are not more widely used is that they are admittedly hard to design. And getting the design right is crucial as it is hard to equitably shift competition rules after they are announced.
We humbly recognize that ‘how to’ documents such as this one in the development space can feel dense so we have tried to make these pages engaging. But if you are considering designing a pay-for-performance mechanism, prize, proportional prize, or AMC in the development space, and would like to review anything covered here, we’d love to touch base with you.
Best of luck in your efforts!
February 18, 2021
Since the global COVID-19 pandemic began last year, ‘resilience’ has never been more important. Next week’s UN Sustainable Development Transformation Forum (February 22-26) takes on this complex topic. Discussions will focus on “specific mechanisms for initiating and fostering the profound transformations that are urgently needed to make our societies sustainable, resilient, prosperous, peaceful, and inclusive.” AgResults joins the Day 2 session on February 23 to illustrate how Pay-for-Results incentives encourage value chain actors to form partnerships and transform entire market systems.
In 2019, the Forum brought together more than 140 participants from 80 countries – representing government ministries, embassies, international organizations, NGOs, academia, private sector, and civil society. This year, organizers from the UN Office of Sustainable Development will narrow in on how developing countries can identify and leverage opportunities presented by COVID-19 to drive low-carbon industrialization.
Entirely virtual, the Forum will take place as a series of five two-hour webinars that address governance, finances, science, and collective action in the context of investing in sustainable infrastructure and supporting innovative technology development. The opening session focuses on how COVID-19 has changed the world – opening some possibilities while constraining other opportunities for sustainability.
Day 2 zooms in on the role of transformative partnerships to finance and invest in sustainable infrastructure. AgResults' presentation will highlight the role of innovative financing mechanisms, such as prize competitions, to shape interactions among public and private sectors. Parasto Hamed will demonstrate how AgResults' competitions use monetary incentives to encourage new relationships among value chain actors. These partnerships establish innovative behaviors and new flows of technology and capital that have the potential to be scaled and sustained, transforming markets.
In this session, Ms. Hamed will be joined by experts from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the OECD Development Center, and the University College Dublin. Together, these panelists will explore how crucial it is to coordinate actions to support innovative technology delivery and market development. From there, the Forum’s conversation will shift toward sustainable industrial development and low-carbon agro-processing before culminating in the final day’s discussion about how we move to circular economies.
For more information on the UN Sustainable Development Transformation Forum, including how to register, visit the conference page....