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Better Cotton Challenge Seeks Sustainable Innovations for 2.2 Million Farmers

The cotton industry has made concerted efforts to improve its level of sustainable farming methods in recent years and now key groups are reaching out to innovators for fresh new ideas.

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), with the support of Dalberg Advisors, have launched the “Better Cotton Innovation Challenge,” a global project seeking innovative ideas and solutions to improve sustainable cotton farming practices around the world.

The Innovation Challenge calls for innovators to submit disruptive solutions in two key areas: those that enable effective and customized farmer training and ideas for efficient data collection.

For customized training, DHL is looking for innovations to bring more sustainable farming practices to hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers across the globe. In data collection, it is seeking solutions that could reduce the time and cost of farmer information gathering to enable more efficient BCI licensing processes.

Solutions could cover areas such as machine learning, satellite-based analytics, image recognition or behavioral influences. The challenge team invites innovators from universities, research and development labs, startups and non-profit organizations to apply. Innovators will undergo three competitive application stages, receive mentorship from experts and gain access to networking opportunities with industry leaders.

The finalists will have the opportunity to pilot test their solution on the ground with BCI farmers. A prize fund of 135,000 euros ($150, 000) will be shared between up to four winners who will potentially have the opportunity to launch their innovation.

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“BCI has scaled rapidly over the past decade, and we now work with our partners to provide training, support and capacity building to more than 2.2 million cotton farmers,” Cristina Martin Cuadrado, program manager at BCI, said. “We are always looking for new ideas and solutions to enable us to keep improving the BCI program. This is the first time we have launched a global challenge. We encourage anyone who is sitting on an excellent idea, to come forward and submit your application.”

The deadline to apply to the Better Cotton Innovation Challenge is Jan. 15. More information is available on the challenge website,

BCI, a global not-for-profit, is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. The initiative aims to transform cotton production worldwide by developing Better Cotton as a sustainable mainstream commodity. In the 2017-2018 cotton season, licensed BCI farmers produced more than five million metric tons of Better Cotton, accounting for 19 percent of global cotton production.

IDH convenes companies, civil society organizations, governments and others in public-private partnerships to drive the joint design, co-funding and prototyping of new economically viable approaches. Dalberg Advisors is a global advisory firm that provides high-level strategic policy and investment advice to the leadership of key institutions, corporations and governments, working collaboratively to address pressing global problems and generate positive social impact.