Cutting-edge Indian solar tech competes for Prince William’s Earthshot Prize 2023
Nidhi Pant co-founded S4S Technologies in 2013 with six university friends – Vaibhav Tidke, Swapnil Kokte, Ganesh Bhere, Shital Somani, Tushar Gaware and Ashwin Pawade – with a vision of “Science 4 Society” and this week their innovative Indian solar venture was named among 15 worldwide finalists for Prince William’s 2023 Earthshot Prize.
Shortlisted in the “Earthshot Prize to Build a Waste-Free World” category, S4S Technologies has been selected for its solar-powered dryers and processing equipment that combat food waste, enabling small-hold farmers to preserve crops and turn produce that might otherwise go to waste into valuable products.
The organisation provides rural communities in India 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. S4S creates a market, connecting commercial buyers to these products and returning most of the profits to the farmers who made them.
Pant said: “Food waste, rural poverty and gender inequality are deeply intertwined challenges for the people of India. S4S’ 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.
“We are honoured by this recognition from the Earthshot Prize, and we look forward to continuing to work with our partners across India and around the world to reduce food waste, protect our natural environment and empower women.”
Some 300,000 women smallholder farmers supported by S4S have recorded 10-15 per cent increases in their profits, while the 2,000 female entrepreneurs they partner with have seen incomes double or even triple. By 2025, S4S wants to extend their reach to 3 million smallholder farmers and 30,000 entrepreneurs. By 2026, they predict they will have reduced food waste by 1.2 million tonnes and removed the equivalent of 10 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere.
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The Prince of Wales announced the 15 finalists at the second Earthshot Innovation Summit, held alongside the UN General Assembly in New York this week to celebrate and champion innovators focused on solving our most pressing global climate challenges. The 15 innovators shortlisted represent six continents and were chosen from more than 1,100 nominees. Each of the finalists will be in the running to receive one of the five £1 million prizes awarded at the third annual Earthshot Prize awards ceremony in Singapore on November 7.
Founded by Prince William in 2020, the Earthshot Prize aims to discover and help scale the world’s most innovative climate and environmental solutions to protect and restore our planet. The prize is centred around five "Earthshots":
Protect & Restore Nature
Clean Our Air
Revive Our Oceans
Build A Waste-free World
Fix Our Climate
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In addition to their eligibility for the prize, all finalists receive mentorship, resources, and technical support from the Earthshot Prize Fellowship Programme, a year-long programme for each cohort of 15 finalists to accelerate the growth of their groundbreaking solutions.