Anatomy of a WE4F Innovator

Innovators are at the center of the Water and Energy of Food Program. They are the enterprises working to change agricultural production, helping smallholder farmers produce more and better food with less water and energy. 

WE4F innovators are not just from the private sector, they can be social enterprises, nonprofits, or academic organizations who have for-profit programs. 

The Southern and Central Africa Regional Innovation Hub is already working to support two innovations that meet the WE4F criteria. Read their inspiring stories and see if you have what it takes to be a WE4F innovator. Afterall, our Southern and Central Africa Call for Innovations is open until January 4th.

From Inventor to Entrepreneur: Reel Gardening

Reel Gardening represents the quintessential journey of an inventor turned entrepreneur. When Claire Reed was just sixteen years old, she was looking to establish a vegetable garden at home and struggling. For an amateur gardener, Claire found growing vegetables from seed challenging and her response was to develop a unique biodegradable seed tape. Thus, Reel Gardening was born. The company provides novice gardeners with a biodegradable seed tape that is perfectly spaced, so those planting simply need to bury the tape at the correct depth. The seed tape also helps gardeners to reduce their water use by up to 80%, as the label tape reminds them where crops are planted and where to water. 

Over the past 16 years, Claire and her growing team have developed numerous products, including a “Garden in a box” vegetable growing kit. The kit contains different seasonal seeds, so a family of four can grow a variety of fresh produce for only $20. Most recently, Reel Gardening produced millions of biodegradable seed pots for the Checkers “My Little Garden” loyalty program and won the Standard Bank Business of the Year in November 2021.

The Business Case for Improving Ecosystems and Market Access: Meat Naturally

As Conservation International worked with rural communities in the Eastern Cape of South Africa to restore their rangeland grazing, Sarah Frazee realized that these fragmented rural communities needed a market to sell their livestock and left to start the venture herself, creating Meat Naturally.

Today, Meat Naturally supports traditional herders to restore their pastures and prevent erosion, providing these emerging livestock farmers with access to markets through mobile auctions. As a result, products like wool and meat can now be consolidated and sold into bigger markets, benefitting smallholder farmers.

In many African communities, livestock like cattle, goats, and sheep symbolize wealth, but numbers don’t always mean a healthy herd. Sarah shares best practices on animal breeding and keeping the animals healthy. The Meat Naturally innovation already reaches farmers in South Africa, Botswana and Kenya, but has great potential to reach new communities in the region / Southern and Central Africa.

Meat Naturally and Reel Gardening are among the many innovators that the global WE4F Grand Challenge works with. If you’re interested in learning more about supported innovations, check out we4f.org/innnovators.

If you have an innovation that can transform farming in one of the 12 targeted countries in the Southern and Central Africa Regional Innovation Hub, be sure to apply by January 4th here: www.we4f.org/apply-sca.