• Tuesday, December 05, 2023


Indians shine at Prince William’s Earthshot Prize

By: Pramod Thomas

AN Indian solar-powered tech venture that is combating food waste in the country and a global soil carbon marketplace founded by an Indian-American are among this year’s winners of the prestigious Earthshot Prize, founded by Prince William and dubbed the Eco Oscars.

S4S Technologies, founded in 2013 by seven university friends, Nidhi Pant, Vaibhav Tidke, Swapnil Kokte, Ganesh Bhere, Shital Somani, Tushar Gaware and Ashwin Pawade, won the award in the Earthshot Prize to Build a Waste-Free World category, while Boomitra, founded in 2017 by Aadith Moorthy, won the award in the Fix our climate category.

The awards were presented at a star-studded ceremony in Singapore on Tuesday (7).

The Earthshot Prize initiative aims to support the development of solutions to the planet’s biggest problems, like climate change, deforestation and waste.

All five winners — selected by a panel of judges that included British naturalist and television presenter David Attenborough — were given £1 million ($1.2m) each.

S4S Technologies combats food waste, rural poverty, and gender inequality by helping smallholder female farmers preserve and market surplus produce, the organisers said.

The firm provides rural communities with cheaper solar-powered conduction dryers and food processing equipment to prepare their crops on-site, rather than using cold storage or other more expensive methods of conventional industrial food preservation.

With a focus on supporting female farmers, S4S also supports its entrepreneurs in using the preserved waste to produce and sell valuable food products, such as ketchup.

“Food waste, rural poverty and gender inequality are deeply intertwined challenges for the people of India. S4S’s innovative solution combines cutting- edge technology with the practical support and training needed to ensure women farmers can thrive and improve their livelihoods for themselves and their families,” said Nidhi Pant, co-founder of S4S Technologies.

Boomitra, which means “friend of the earth” in Sanskrit, is removing emissions and boosting farmer profits by incentivising soil restoration and the adoption of regenerative agriculture through a verified carbon-credit marketplace, the organisers said.

The company works with more than 150,000 farmers, from half-acre smallholder farms to large ranchers, managing more than five million acres of land in some of the poorest parts of Africa, South America and Asia.

“We cannot restore the earth without the support of farmers, who produce the food we eat and rely on the land for their income. Our technological solution empowers farmers with the data they need to improve soil and maximise their crop yields, while creating a valuable store for carbon,” said Boomitra CEO and founder Moorthy.

A winner is selected in each of the prize’s five categories out of 15 finalists, chosen from more than 1,100 nominees.

Accion Andina, a grassroots initiative working across South America to restore and protect forest ecosystems in the Andes Mountains, won the prize for “Protect and Restore Nature”.

Hong Kong-based company GRST picked up the “Clean Our Air” prize for developing a way to build and recycle lithium-ion batteries that pollute less and use more recyclable components.

The prize for “Build A Waste-Free World” went to S4S Technologies, which provides solar-powered dryers and food processing equipment to small-hold farmers in India to reduce crop wastage.

US non-profit organisation WildAid’s marine program won the “Revive Our Oceans” prize for its efforts to stop illegal fishing and boost ocean conservation.

“I choose to believe that future generations will look back on this decade as the point at which we globally took collective action for our planet,” said Prince William.

“The moment we refused to accept the voices of denial and defeatism and instead became the architects of change towards a healthy and sustainable world.”

The glitzy event was co-hosted by British actress Hannah Waddingham and American actor Sterling K. Brown at The Theatre at Mediacorp.

Founded by the prince in 2020, the Earthshot Prize’s name was inspired by US president John F Kennedy’s “Moonshot” project in the 1960s to put a man on the moon.


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