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New Mobile Tool Comes to the Rescue of Small Farmers Around the World

Venkat Maroju, SF ’07, believes that the only way to improve one part of an agricultural supply chain is to improve every part. With his radical mobile invention SourceTrace, he is proving out that theory. With software tools to help manage the growth and sale of crops as well as to purchase and track goods, SourceTrace has transformed agricultural supply chains across Africa and around the world.

Venkat Maroju, SF ’07

As a politician in Telangana, the region in southern India where he was raised, Maroju observed the hardships associated with small-plot farming, the source of income for most families in the region. He saw that abrupt changes in agricultural policy and predatory lending practices were so ruinous to small farmers that an alarming number of them were committing suicide.

As a student in the MIT Sloan Fellows Program in 2005, Maroju studied microfinance in India and wrote a thesis that looked at the impact of cell phone ownership on citizens of rural villages. SourceTrace was, at that time, a struggling tech company focused on mobile banking. With lessons learned from his years in rural India and his rigorously researched thesis, Maroju suggested the company pivot to agriculture. Company leaders thought the idea inspired and appointed Maroju CEO in 2013.

Unlocking improvements in the supply chain—end to end
In an interview with MIT News, Maroju notes that “in agriculture, you can’t do anything in isolation.” He says that the SourceTrace approach is to take into consideration the entire value chain—input suppliers, extension organizations, buyers, processors, truck drivers. They all play a crucial role. “To make an impact, you have to build end to end.”

SourceTrace software is making farming sustainable and supply chains efficient. At the same time, it is bringing transparency and traceability into the food marketplace in 28 countries—60 per cent of the company’s customers are in Africa. The SourceTrace platform has improved production processes for more than 300 different crops.

Maroju, a mentor at the MIT Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, says he has always been dedicated to social issues, never forgetting his own childhood, which was marked by extreme poverty. SourceTrace has been a vehicle for righting some of those societal wrongs. “We’ve always focused on the farmers,” he says. “I’ve always been passionate about smallholder farmers, and we really want to give back.”

Watch how SourceTrace works for rural farmers around the world.








A Methodology Guaranteed to Beat Covid-19

Professor Pierre Azoulay
MIT Sloan School of Management

The Covid-19 pandemic is forcing people around the world to cope with much higher levels of uncertainty than most of us have ever confronted. Doubts and tradeoffs permeate our decisions related to personal health, social interactions, and livelihoods. For policymakers seeking to steer us back to social and economic stability, however, MIT Sloan Professor Pierre Azoulay says the way forward is crystal clear.

“Innovation can help societies escape the untenable choice between public and economic health,” say Azoulay and coauthor Professor Benjamin F. Jones PhD ’03 of Northwestern University in a recent editorial for Science magazine. With Covid-19-related losses in U.S. GDP running at approximately $18 billion per day, Azoulay and Jones note that accelerating the creation of a vaccine by even a single day would easily pay for itself. “Even large incremental funding to support R&D will be miniscule in scale compared to the $2.8 trillion the U.S. government is spending to compensate for the economic shutdown.”

The argument for scale and speed
In “Beat COVID-19 through innovation,” the two economists contend that a successful policy approach must broaden and accelerate breakthroughs in prevention, treatment, and infection control. Azoulay and Jones recommend that the government simultaneously fund as many as 10,000 independent avenues of research. “Even if each had only a 0.1% chance of producing an advance in prevention, treatment, or infection control,” they say, “the probability of at least five such advances would be 97%. By contrast, if efforts crowd into only a few prospects, the odds of collective failure can become overwhelming.”

A bold and fiscally justified approach includes expedited funds to support the massive R&D talent pool that currently exists in the U.S. and around the world. Principal investigators with existing public funding “should be able to receive immediate support to work on Covid-19 with minimal application burden and decisions within one week,” write Azoulay and Jones. To accelerate breakthroughs in the private sector, an R&D financing program could offer expedited loans that are forgivable based on actual levels of investment in pandemic-related innovations. Still more fiscal incentives could be created by expanding the R&D tax credits that already exist in many countries, including the U.S.

Innovating our way out of crisis
Azoulay and Jones point to the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) from the World War II era as a template for what should happen now. “A COVID-19 Defense Research Committee [CDRC] could similarly be empowered to coordinate and fund solutions to the pandemic,” they say. “This group would track R&D efforts, create a public clearinghouse documenting the avenues pursued, fund innovations and the scaling of successful advances, and streamline bureaucracy.”

The CDRC would also be responsible for increasing transparency among private-sector scientists working on Covid-19 responses. Azoulay contends that the investments of big pharmaceutical and biomedical companies often are influenced by murky notions of what competitors are developing. “The market works,” he recently told an MIT News reporter. “It’s just that it works at a cadence that is inappropriate to the particular moment that we face. And that’s a rationale for government intervention.”

In concluding their pitch for the CDRC in Science, Azoulay and Jones stress that the need for immediate breakthroughs is too important to be left to chance and that every minute lost is costing us millions. “COVID-19 presents the world with a brutal choice between economic and public health. Innovation investments are essential to avoiding that choice—yet tiny in cost compared to current economic losses and other emergency programs. Even the slight acceleration of advances will bring massive benefits.”



Only we can bind ourselves to technology

Tom Kochan,          George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management at MIT Sloan

“The media landscape is full of futurists, academics, and members of think tanks making erratic predictions about robots eating jobs,” says Tom Kochan, George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management at MIT Sloan. “Even the World Economic Forum has published some wild numbers about anticipated job loss and job creation linked to advanced technologies. The problem is that few of those forecasters are managers in the workplace, and managers will have the greatest influence on how this plays out.”

What the alarmists are missing, in Kochan’s view, is that technology tends to move relatively slowly through organizations, and that human integration is essential to making the most of automation. “General Motors learned this lesson the hard way in the 1980s,” Kochan says. “In an effort to catch up with more efficient Japanese competitors, GM invested nearly $50 billion in robots. Rather than becoming more competitive, the company ended the decade as a high-cost producer because it failed to upgrade its workforce and change its work practices in ways that made the new technologies pay off.”

Déjà vu all over again
Thirty years later, Tesla demonstrated the relevance of that lesson to contemporary manufacturing. The company’s total automation strategy resulted in production shortfalls, investor dissatisfaction, and a push by workers to unionize in the face of what they viewed as persistent safety problems, overwork, and low wages.

“Ironically,” says Kochan, “the Tesla failure happened at the same plant in Fremont, California where Toyota achieved high levels of productivity with its gradual process of introducing technology and working with workers and their union.” Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, ultimately conceded that “humans are underrated” and that successful automation is a complex balancing act of human and machine skills, among other factors.

We’re all in this together
“My experience is that corporate leaders, MBA students, and mid-career managers have much the same goals for their organizations as the people who work at lower levels of their companies,” Kochan says. Rather than surrendering to the self-serving vision of a technology creator or salesperson, executives and managers must think hard about what problems any given technology can solve within their organizations.

“The choices are ours to make, and history shows us that when companies think carefully about what problems a particular technology can solve, more people up and down the line feel invested and the outcomes are more productive. You must never let technology box you into organizational practices that don’t work for your company.”

The future of work
Kochan and co-teacher Elisabeth Reynolds, executive director of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future, tackled those challenges head on with their new online course Shaping the Work of the Future. Offered on the edX platform during Sloan Innovation Period (SIP), the course is free and open to the public.

“A key goal of the course is to communicate to a broad spectrum of workers around the world—young and experienced, frontline and leaders in business and government—that they can affect the future of work‚” explains Kochan. “There are no iron-clad laws of technology and globalization. If we take active roles in managing these things, we can influence how they turn out.”

Key insights from a global cohort
Kochan notes that the first cohort of course participants related strongly to the idea that leaders engaging with new technologies must be systems integrators and organizational change agents for their companies. Participants also affirmed that a new social contract must be forged between management and workers.

“In industry after industry, two dominant themes emerged,” says Kochan. “First, company leaders must invest in training and preparing their workers to be continuous learners, and these efforts must be supported with resources from the government and education sectors. Second, organizations must give workers a meaningful voice in decisions about introducing new technologies into existing organizational practices. This should include rebuilding unions in a modern way that engages women, minorities, and younger workers. We know from countless examples—both positive and negative—that genuine engagement on substantive issues across all levels of an organization leads to the most creative and productive outcomes.”

Kochan is the first-ever winner of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association Academic Excellence Award. The award was created in 2017 to recognize outstanding academic achievements in the field of labor and employment relations. His latest book is Shaping the Future of Work: A Handbook for Action and a New Social Contract.


LabCentral to Advance Biomanufacturing Ventures in Kendall Square

LabCentral 238 at 238 Main Street in Kendall Square will open in the fall of 2021. Photo credit: Encore & Perkins+Will

Already dubbed the most innovative square mile on earth, Kendall Square is about to add another notch to its ingenuity quotient. LabCentral has announced its intention to essentially double its Kendall Square footprint in 2021 with the establishment of a new incubator focused on scale-up biomanufacturing. LabCentral 238—the name is a nod to its 238 Main Street address—will feature 100K square feet of shared office and laboratory space where companies can conduct process development studies. Unlike the original LabCentral incubator, LabCentral 238 will host startups that have cleared preliminary research hurdles and are headed eventually for clinical trials. The new venture will be developed on a site located on two floors of the 100-year-old Kendall Building. Distinguished by its historic clock tower, the building is being expanded to 12 stories with an adjacent addition. The German pharmaceutical powerhouse Bayer AG is expected to occupy a large swath of the space.

Astellas Pharma invests $12.5M in LabCentral 238
The LabCentral 238 initiative is made possible by a $12.5M investment from Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company Astellas Pharma and a grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. MIT Sloan Fellows Program alumnus Percival Baretto-Ko SF ’11 is Astellas Pharma president. The company will invest an additional $450K over three years to become a Gold Sponsor of LabCentral’s existing Kendall Square incubator at 700 Main Street, which has grown rapidly since it was established in 2013.

LabCentral 238 will make prototypes of the drugs on a fast track and at a lower cost. The drugs won’t meet the standards needed for clinical trials, but if a product seems promising, the startup will pay manufacturers to produce them at the necessary standard for clinical trials. Producing lower-cost prototypes at a faster rate will mean a greater number of life-saving drugs have a chance of reaching consumers sooner.

LabCentral takes inspiration from the energy of its neighborhood at the edge of the MIT campus and the legacy of innovation that preceded its tenancy. Its 700 Main Street location is the very place where Thomas A. Watson received that legendary first long-distance phone call in the 1800s. A century later, Polaroid founder Edwin Land established an office here. Today, more than 300 scientists and entrepreneurs from 70 startups rent lab benches and office space at 700 Main.

“We need more access to innovative startup companies,” Yoshitsugu Shitaka, president of the Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine, recently told the Boston Globe, “especially in the cell therapy and gene therapy space.” The two LabCentral incubators should do just that. Young biotech enterprises are drawn to the extraordinary amenities, including access to millions of dollars in laboratory equipment and face time with local drug developers. For global biotech companies like Astellas, the LabCentral cluster is a hothouse worth watching.

Read the Boston Globe article on LabCentral 238.

MITii’s New Proto Ventures Program Puts the Problem First

The MIT Innovation Initiative—often referred to as MITii—is launching a Proto Ventures Program to generate pioneering new companies using a process unlike anything else in higher education. Program leaders will recruit subject experts to explore transformational technologies and the resulting business opportunities that follow. “Turning ideas into impact is a really big part of MIT,” says MIT Sloan professor Fiona Murray, MITii codirector. “Enabling our community to do that more effectively has always been the core of the Innovation Initiative.”

Fiona Murray, MITii Codirector

The guiding mission of the Proto Ventures Program is to “systematically discover, experiment, mature, and launch new transformative technology ventures capable of having extraordinarily positive impact on the world.”The program also will help MITii fulfill its goal of educating entrepreneurs, translating ideas to impact, communicating new information, and promoting diversity. “We try to be the tide that raises all ships of innovation at MIT,” MITii Executive Director Gene Keselman says, “whether it be helping existing programs with resources or creating new programs where there are gaps.”

The “venture builders” who will be hired in connection with the Proto Ventures Program will connect authentic real-world problems with MIT experts, resources, and support systems to create a “proto venture.” The idea is to give those venture builders the latitude to explore the spectrum of needs in a given field, tapping experts across the MIT community to create marketable solutions.

What sets it apart
How is the Proto Ventures Program different from other entrepreneurial efforts? It puts the problem first. “Normally, students or faculty have an idea for a business, and they pitch that idea. Then there’s a panel that decides on the ones they’ll bet on,” says MITii codirector Michael Cima. “That’s a tried-and-true method for doing things. But there’s a whole other way, and that’s to start with a blank sheet and a problem area and ask, ‘What are the business opportunities?’”

Murray adds, “In many cases, the degree to which real-world problems match these research solutions depends on having a human agent in the system: the graduate student at the right time in their career or the faculty member knowing someone who can be the entrepreneur. So the venture builder is a new kind of human agent who can have a broad understanding of a particular problem domain. Rather than being confined to a singular solution, they can explore the solution space and start to coalesce possible proto ventures in those areas.”

MITii has begun accepting applications for a domain expert who will work at the intersection of artificial intelligence and healthcare, a collaboration between a new research program called J-Clinic and the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. The project will be a pilot for future Proto Ventures collaborations.

Learn more about the Proto Ventures Program.

Read the MIT News article about the Proto Ventures Program

New contest asks financial innovators to reinvent the retirement plan

The MIT Golub Center for Finance and Policy(GCFP) at MIT Sloan has launched a contest to solicit new ideas for retirement plans. The competition is open to students, academics, investment professionals, financial advisors, pension fund managers, and experts in asset-liability management. For participants who propose the most well-reasoned, prudent, and implementable strategies, the GCFP will distribute prizes totaling $20,000 and will transmit the winning entries to policymakers. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2019.

The motivation for launching the contest is the declining number of pension plans offered to workers in the United States—and the crippling cost of those plans, especially to organizations in the public sector. At the same time, 401(k) plans are becoming more popular, but financial professionals are concerned about risks as employers shift responsibility of investment to employees who may not be sufficiently experienced to make investment decisions that will have a life-changing impact on their lives after retirement.

Collective Defined Contribution Plan

With the contest, the GCFP faculty hopes to inspire the invention of a third kind of retirement plan—a collective defined contribution plan(CDCP) that could alleviate the financial stresses that threaten the sustainability of the pension plans of millions of public sector workers. A key feature of this plan is that all employer and employee contributions are invested and managed in one collective pool. Benefits depend on investment performance, but risk-sharing across multiple generations of retirees increases the predictability of benefit payments. And managing the investments in a collective pool deeply reduces costs because collective investing can be done by pension experts at institutional rates for one large and diversified asset pool.

“The goal of the contest is to find the highest level of scheduled benefits that a well structured CDCP is likely to deliver to retirees,” says MIT Sloan Professor and GCFP Academic Director Deborah Lucas. “We’re looking for input on an investment strategy and risk-sharing policy that could be followed by CDCP managers to provide retirees with the highest achievable scheduled benefits subject to the limits on the probability and severity of benefit shortfalls.”

The GCFP serves as a catalyst for innovative, cross-disciplinary, and nonpartisan research and educational initiatives that address the challenges facing governments in their roles as financial institutions and financial regulators. The center is building a foundation that will support transformative improvements in the development and execution of financial policy today and in the decades to come.



Alter your work environment to suit your mood—without ever leaving your desk

You are where you work—virtually, at least. A new project at the MIT Media Lab is examining how much your environment influences your mood, behavior, sleep, health—even your capacity for creativity. And it’s fine-tuning ways for individuals to control and change that environment. The project is called Mediated Atmosphere and is the work of the Media Lab’s Responsive Environments group, which focuses on augmenting and mediating human experience, interaction, and perception using sensor networks.

In a time of declining worker satisfaction, researchers on the project are hoping to enhance wellbeing and productivity in the workplace by improving each individual’s personal workplace atmosphere. With biosensors, lighting, image projection, and sound, the group is creating immersive environments designed to help users focus, de-stress, and do their best work.

MIT Media Lab's Mediated Atmosphere Project

Atmospheric Scene: Forest Photo credit: Nan Zhao

The idea is that, during the course of the workday, we are likely to be inspired by different environments. The studious quiet of a grand library might motivate us as we settle in to research. Or we might need a break after a stressful meeting by virtually strolling along a path beside a stream. Media Lab researcher Nan Zhao noticed that most lighting solutions, wireless speakers, and home automation platforms lack a multimodal quality to synchronize light, sound, images, fragrances, and temperature. She also noted the paucity of research on the impact of atmospheric scenes on cognition and behavior.

Zhao drew on what little existing research she could find that explored the positive effects of natural views and sounds on mental state as well as the effects of light and sound on mood, alertness, and memory. During that research, she came to realize that any given environmental stimulus will have a very different effect on different people. As individual as our reactions are to specific environments, however, she also concluded that each of us needs rich, absorbing, but predictable places to visit in the course of a day, places that are fascinating and give us a feeling of having changed our surroundings.

The study of 29 users offered five different ambient scenes, ranging from forest streams to bustling coffee shops, measuring how the environment influenced participants’ ability to focus and bounce back from stress. Using nonintrusive biosensors, the research team learned each worker’s activity, work habits, and physiological or behavioral reactions to environmental changes. Building on data from realistic work scenarios, the team then created personalized response models to synchronize the workspace experience with the ever-changing requirements of workers.

Mediated Atmosphere uses a frameless screen (designed with a special aspect ratio so it doesn’t feel like watching TV), a custom lighting network, speaker array, video projection, and wearable biosignal sensors. The team can label what specific atmospheric scenes mean for the user and learn how to automatically trigger a change in environment based on their responses. Looking ahead, the team envisions more complex applications that would use ambiance to strengthen memory and enhance learning activities.

“We want to create an environment player that can recommend or automate your space similar to how Spotify or Pandora gives you access to a world of music,” Zhao says. “We want to help people to manage their days by giving them the right place at the right time.”

Read the related story in MIT News.

Watch the Mediated Atmosphere video.

Tiny houses offer big benefit to Seattle’s homeless

Homelessness in Seattle might not grab the national headlines as it does in cities like New York and Los Angeles, but the city has the third-largest homeless population in the country, behind those other two metropolises. Seattle-based MIT alumna Sharon Lee has found one inventive solution to the crisis—tiny houses.

Lee graduated from MIT in 1981 with degrees in architecture and city planning. She founded the Seattle-based Low Income Housing Institute in 1991 to provide a range of supportive service programs that allow residents to maintain stable housing and increase self-sufficiency.

The micro-dwellings measure 8 x 12 feet and are fully heated and electrified. Each cluster of 16 homes—seven clusters have been built across the city—is located on open land or in an unused parking lot. Each cluster is set up to be its own village with a communal kitchen and bathroom facilities. The city funds the utilities as well as full-time social workers and case managers to support the residents. Volunteers—many from trade organizations and schools—build the homes, which cost about $2,500 each to construct.

A catalyst for turning lives around

Because the tiny homes are under 120-square-feet, they aren’t considered a dwelling and can be built and made operational quickly with a relative minimum of red tape. “If you want to build a [traditional] building, it takes a year to get financing, a year to get permits, and a year to year-and-a-half to build,” Lee notes. “In the meantime, people are literally dying on the streets.”

Designed as a temporary solution, the homes have proven to be an effective vehicle for turning lives around. In the last two years, nearly 2,000 members of Seattle’s 10,000+ homeless citizens have taken advantage of the tiny house communities, and 300+ residents have moved on to permanent housing. More than 250 have gained employment. “It’s not a perfect solution,” Lee emphasizes. “It’s a crisis response.”

At LIHI, Lee oversees a staff of 140 engaged in housing development, management, advocacy, and support services. Her team has developed more than 4,500 units of housing, including tiny homes. In addition to recognition for its humanitarian impact, the organization’s efforts have won several local and national awards for design excellence and environmental sustainability.

“It is very emotional,” says Lee. “When we offer people a tiny house, they may have been on the street for four years and they finally move into a place that’s heated and where they can stay, and they’re just overwhelmed. Then they find that they can get their life together. They can address their health care, their mental health, and their employment situation because they can be stable.”

Read the story in the Slice of MIT blog.

Residents and staff discuss the benefits of tiny home villages.

Lighting the world: MIT graduate student invents scalable solar

It’s tough to be competitive within the global marketplace when your company languishes for large spans of time off the power grid, but it’s a problem that people in many developing nations face. In his native Zimbabwe, Prosper Nyovanie says that life was continually lived in work-around mode as frequent electricity outages plagued the country. Realizing how crippling this was to Zimbabwe’s economic culture, Nyovanie set about looking for a solution. He found it in a scalable solar electric system that expands with demand.

Nyovanie, who majored in mechanical engineering as an MIT undergraduate, discovered his calling when he took the course Energy Decisions, Markets, and Policies, which explored the production, distribution, and consumption of energy. The experience inspired him to minor in energy studies and eventually led to the birth of Voya Sol, the company he cofounded to enable individuals to build their own solar energy micro-grids from the bottom-up.

As an undergraduate, Nyovanie took on a UROP with Martin Culpepper in the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity and realized that the success of his ideas were rooted at the intersection of business and technology. In a recent interview with MIT News he recalled, “One big thing that I liked about the class was that it introduced this other complexity that I hadn’t paid that much attention to before, because when you’re in the engineering side, you’re really focused on making technology, using science to come up with awesome inventions. But there are considerations that you need to think about when you’re implementing [such inventions]. You need to think about markets, how policies are structured.”

Now a graduate student and fellow in MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) program, Nyovanie is building that pivotal combination of skills. Through the LGO program, he will earn an MBA from MIT Sloan and a master’s in mechanical engineering. He is also a fellow in the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT.

Global fieldwork in key markets

Before cofounding Voya Sol with Stanford University graduate student Caroline Jo, Nyovanie worked at renewable energy company SunEdison as a process engineer and analyst through the Renewable Energy Leadership Development Rotational Program. He rotated between different roles at the company around the world, including a stint as a project engineer overseeing the development of rural mini-grids in Tanzania. When SunEdison declared bankruptcy, Nyovanie continued his discussions with rural electricity providers in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Nigeria before eventually founding Voya Sol with Stanford University graduate student Caroline Jo.

Nyovanie believes that their scalable, personalized solar solution is the first of its kind. If all goes according to plan, they will provide customers with all the components necessary to independently assemble a solar energy system that can power their own homes, connect to their neighbors’ systems, or even build out a community grid. The first country to test the product? Zimbabwe, of course.

Creating food desert oases: Harvard and MIT innovators pitch options

In large swaths of the world, including the United States, urban areas are plagued with food deserts—places where residents have little or no access to affordable, nutritious food. In fact, 40+ million Americans now live in 6,500 food deserts that have been identified across the country. As a result, they also live with significantly higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The winners of the 2018 Rabobank-MIT Food and Agribusiness Innovation Prize have developed inventive solutions to this dilemma, which has defied 21st-century governments and NGOs.

EatWell, a team of students and agribusiness experts representing the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, won the $15,000 first prize with their plan to bring healthier meal options to low-income communities. They are developing simple, low-cost meal kits that can be sold in food deserts. The team’s test market is Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood where 60 percent of families fall into the low-income category and are served by a single grocery store. Consequently, only a third of all Mattapan residents have access to affordable, nutritious food.

EatWell’s process is to survey residents about meal preferences. A professional chef and dietitian then work together to create simple, healthy, quick-to-table recipes. In Mattapan, that meant a chicken pot pie dish chock full of vegetables and a Haitian pork dish. The $15 kits cost far less than competitors like Blue Apron, in part because they aren’t shipped and don’t have in-box refrigeration.

Crowdsourcing the wisdom of farmers in Africa

The $10,000 second prize went to Context Insights, an outgrowth of a class project in the MIT Sloan course Opportunities in Developing Economies taught by Tavneet Suri. Suri, an associate professor of applied economics, is also scientific director of Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) Africa and the cochair of J-PAL’s agriculture sector. Context Insight’s idea is to crowd-source crop-price predictions from farmers in Africa and aggregate that data for governments and microfinance institutions so that they can increase crop investments that alleviate market volatility.

Context Insights uses the wisdom of savvy local farmers to forecast the price of basic commodities like maize, commodities that are critical to life in sub-Saharan Africa. The team is now piloting the platform with the East Africa Exchange, the largest regional commodity exchange in East Africa. Its goal is to connect the owners of small farms to agricultural and financial markets.

The Rabobank-MIT Food & Agribusiness Innovation Prize is sponsored by Rabobank and supported by Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab and the MIT Food and Agriculture Club.

Learn more about the Rabobank-MIT Food & Agribusiness Innovation Prize.

Read a related story in MIT News.