Fall Armyworm Tech Prize

The prize is seeking digital tools and approaches that provide timely, context-specific information that enable smallholder farmers and those who support them to identify, treat, and track incidence of fall armyworm in Africa.

Entries Open
28th March 2018
Deadline for Entries
14th May 2018
Co-Creation Event
End of June 2018
Award Event
November 2018

Scroll down for more information

The Problem

Fall armyworm (FAW) poses a serious threat to food security in sub-Saharan Africa. Originally from the Americas, FAW outbreaks first occurred in West Africa in early 2016 and are now on the precipice of devastating food supplies across the continent, exacerbating global poverty and hunger. FAW attacks more than 80 different plant species and agriculture experts estimate the pest may cause over $13 billion in losses for crops like maize, sorghum, rice, and sugarcane. It can also fly up to 1,600 kilometers (nearly 1,000 miles) in 30 hours meaning it can easily migrate to surrounding farms and countries.
Given the spread and rate of the outbreak, interventions are needed at a transnational level. Information on how to respond and prevent the pest needs to quickly be transmitted to smallholder farmers and those who advise them.

In order to control the spread of FAW and reduce the risk of a future humanitarian crisis, smallholder farmers need improved access to immediate, accurate and actionable information on how to mitigate, identify and combat the fall armyworm. Digital technologies can be utilized in expanding the frontiers of information access in sub-Saharan Africa. Increasingly available digital technologies including sensors, geospatial imagery and data analytics can be leveraged to allow smallholder farmers to gain useful advice and make informed decisions.

About the Prize

At present, FAW in Africa threatens harvests and economic growth on a continental scale. Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, aims to transform lives toward a world where people no longer face extreme poverty, undernutrition and hunger.  To achieve this, Feed the Future works hand-in-hand with partner countries to develop their agriculture sectors and break the cycle of poverty and hunger. In particular, Feed the Future aims to:

  • Increase agricultural productivity and generate opportunities for economic growth and trade in developing countries.
  • Boost the harvests and incomes of rural smallholder farmers, who are the key to unlocking agricultural growth and transforming economies.
  • Improve agricultural research and development and get existing, proven technologies to more people.
  • Increase resilience to prevent recurrent crises and help communities better withstand and bounce back from crises when they do happen.

Five prizes totalling $400,000 in prizes will be made as follows:

  • One grand prize of $150,000 to the most viable solution
  • Two significant awards of $75,000 to the most promising solutions
  • Two up and comer awards of $50,000 to early stage developments that show the most potential

With advances in digital communications, social networks, satellite imagery, electronic data collection and sharing, sensing technologies, crowdsourcing, and the global movement to share open data, more information than ever can be efficiently communicated and made relevant for farmers.  While digital tools and approaches are not the only solutions to fall armyworm (and depending on the context, may not be appropriate), technological solutions can help serve as a force multiplier to already strained advisory services.

Prize Statement

The prize is seeking digital tools and approaches that provide timely, context-specific information that enable smallholder farmers and those who support them to identify, treat, and track incidence of fall armyworm in Africa.

This prize is focused on sourcing and sparking innovations for African smallholder farmers and those that work with them. But given the global nature of this problem, we anticipate some of these solutions could have relevance beyond Africa.

The prize seeks solutions that:

  • Enable smallholder farmers and those who support them to accurately identify incidence of fall armyworm in their crops.
  • Produce timely, context appropriate, and empowering insights for smallholder farmers to treat the incidence of fall armyworm.
  • Reduce productivity losses caused by fall armyworm among those using the tool or approach.
  • Ensure the appropriate and responsible use of pest management assessments, tools, and interventions.

Participant Journey

  • Milestone 1

    Call for Submissions - Entry Period

    Wednesday 28th March – Monday 14 May 2018

    • The Fall Armyworm Tech Prize call will be open for seven weeks.
    • For more information about the entry process, see the Innovators Handbook, Judging Criteria, Eligibility Criteria and Terms and Conditions
    • We will publicize any other Question and Answer opportunities on the platform.
    • We recommend entrants read the FAQs before entering the prize.
    • Prospective competitors can also send queries via email to fawtechprize@nesta.org.uk.
    • Submissions received after the deadline date and time listed above may not be considered.
    • All eligible submissions will be assessed and judged to reach a decision on the 20 finalists
    • Submissions received after the deadline date and time listed above may not be considered.
    • All eligible submissions will be assessed and judged to reach a decision on the 20 finalists


    Submission Deadline Monday 14th May 2018: 23:59 ET

  • Milestone 2

    Finalists’ Co-Creation Events

    End of June - Dates TBC


    • 20 finalists will be selected and invited to participate in the co-creation event taking place in Uganda towards the end of June for three to four days.
    • Two representatives will be invited to attend for each selected idea. An allowance will be provided to cover expenses for travel and subsistence and the administrative arrangements.
    • We will notify finalists at least three weeks before the event to provide time to make the appropriate arrangements.  The actual dates will be publicized beforehand for applicants to plan.
    • Please make note of the timeframe as it is a requirement that selected finalists attend.

    In addition, each finalist will receive $2,000 to support the development of their prototype.

  • Milestone 3

    Development Plans and Testing

    June - August 2017

    • After the co-creation event finalists will have eight to ten weeks to hone their innovations.
    • During this period, user testing will need to take place. The finalist’s prototypes will be tested with sub-Saharan African smallholder farmers and extension services to understand how viable the product is and how much of a difference they think it could make in recognizing and intervening in the spread of fall armyworm.
    • As part of their final submission,  finalists will need to complete a development plan (similar to a business plan) and submit a video, details of which will be outlined.
    • There will be ongoing mentoring support during this time.


    Deadline for Final Submissions 12th August 2018 23:59 ET

  • Milestone 4

    Final Award Event

    End of September/October 2018 - Date TBC

    • In late September or October 2018, a final awards event will be held.
    • Winners will have the opportunity to present their prototype and plans to convened stakeholders.
    • The Awards will be announced.

Eligibility Criteria:

Who can enter?

The Prize will accept entries that meet the following criteria. See the Eligibility Criteria page for more details:

  • Open to all.
  • Local applicability.
  • Willingness to share the learning.
  • Prototyping Skills.
  • Intellectual Property.
  • Incomplete Entries.
  • Applications in English.
  • USAID Responsibility Determination.

Judging Criteria:

What will the judges will be looking for?

All entries will be judged against the following criteria. See the Judging Criteria page for guidance)

  • Criteria 1  Digital Tools
  • Criteria 2 Actionable Information
  • Criteria 3 Accessibility
  • Criteria 4 Potential Impact
  • Criteria 5 Market Potential
  • Criteria 6 Adherence to Regulations, Privacy and Norms.

Who’s behind the Prize?

Feed the Future is America’s initiative to combat global hunger and poverty. It brings partners together to help some of the world’s poorest countries harness the power of agriculture and entrepreneurship to jumpstart their economies and create new opportunities.

The Challenge Prize Centre was established to increase practical evidence and understanding about challenge prizes so they can be used effectively by governments, charities and businesses to have a tangible positive impact on society.

You can find all our partners here

Get in touch!

See the Prize Terms and Conditions and FAQs.

For further updates, contact us at fawtechprize@nesta.org.uk or follow us on Twitter and join the conversation using the hashtag #Fallarmyworm.

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.

Powered by nesta