The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Impact Hub Kigali (IHK), with the support of USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs (BHA) and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are looking for solutions in Rwanda that address food insecurity through strengthening food systems. The IGNITE Food Systems Challenge supports the scaling of innovative Startups, MSMEs, and cooperatives with commercially viable solutions to address gaps in the food system. Each selected venture will receive up to $30,000 in grant funding & 4 months curated technical support to address business gaps.

What The Program Offers

Selected ventures will have access to the following benefits that will support them to implement their locally-driven solutions that strengthen food systems.

  • Funding: Up to $30,000 in equity-free funding per venture
  • Acceleration support: 4 months of curated technical support to strengthen your skills and address business gaps. Receive a tailored curriculum and connect directly with  experts and mentors
  • Networking and exposure: connections to potential investors and leverage WFP’s strong network of public, private, and government partners

Who Were We Looking For?

We were looking for Startups, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and cooperatives with commercially viable solutions to strengthen the food system.

While all food systems solutions are invited to apply, solutions that address the following areas were particularly encouraged to apply:

  • Gender Transformative Food Systems: Food systems solutions that aim to empower women, through employment opportunities or business impact.
  • Circular Economy Solutions: Solutions that help reduce the environmental impact of the food system, promote greater resource efficiency, and support a more sustainable and resilient food system.

Eligibility Criteria

  • The entity had to possess a valid registration/certificate of incorporation for operating in Rwanda and at least 1 year of operation
  • Have proof of a revenue-generating business (total turnover in the case of cooperatives) of at least the equivalent of USD 5,000 for the full year of 2022
  • Be a team of at least three full-time members dedicated to the MSME/cooperative, including the founding team
  • At least 50% of the founding and/or senior management team must be from Rwanda/East Africa
  • The entity had to have existing key operations in Rwanda

Businesses and co-operatives that are women-led and/or have taken demonstrated action towards promoting women in their supply chain were especially encouraged to apply.

Evaluation Criteria

The evaluation process for the IGNITE Food Systems Challenge (Second Edition) was based on the following criteria:

  • Level of innovation: The solution solves a food challenge in an innovative way
  • Impact: the solution has a strong impact on strengthening food systems
  • Financial sustainability: the venture has a clear business model and is financially sustainable
  • Level of traction: the venture shows traction and demonstrates impact already
  • Scalability: the venture has a strong potential to be scaled up
  • Team: The team combines the right experience and demonstrates commitment to scale the solution

Applications were reviewed by WFP, our implementing partners, and external experts. While we welcome applicants working across all stages of the food systems, preference was given to those who already showed traction and market validation to support their growth.

Program Timeline

Insights from the 1st edition

The first edition of the program supported 6 ventures to scale their innovative solutions over a period of 6 months with tailored technical support and financial support of 50,000USD to each venture. This support led to massively increased production capacities, enhanced and streamlined operation efficiency, acquisition of new customers and customer segments, multiplied revenues, all of which are cementing the ventures’ standing and contribution to the strengthening of the wider food systems.

IGNITE Food Systems Challenge Pitch Day

IGNITE Food Systems Docuseries – Ep.3

IGNITE Food Systems Docuseries – Ep.1

IGNITE Food Systems Challenge Demo Day

IGNITE Food Systems Docuseries – Ep.2


After the application review process with over 364 applications received, 18 ventures were shortlisted to proceed to the pre-acceleration to the pre-acceleration phase comprised of the due diligence and bootcamp.

From May 31st to June 2nd, 2023, the shortlisted ventures participated in the bootcamp to enhance their growth strategies, leadership, storytelling, pitching & public speaking skills, ahead of the pitch day.

Selected Ventures

The winners were announced at the pitch day that took place at the Kigali Marriott Hotel on June 20th, 2023 where each of the finalists pitched their innovative solutions to a live audience and a panel of judges. The judges’ panel included representatives from the World Food Programme, Mastercard Foundation, Ministry of Youth, Vertland Africa Ltd, and East Africa Investment.

Below are the eight ventures that emerged as winners:

1000 Hills Products is a specialized coffee-export company that is currently completing the first fully eco-friendly organic Fruit value addition plant at Lake Mugesera (running on green energy and filtered lake water) to reduce post-harvest losses while utilizing bi-products as fertilizer and animal feed.

Bunga Bunga Ubutaka Farm Mechanization offers affordable and accessible tractor services to farmers and clients of all sizes. BBU operates a fleet of tractors and farmers pay them to plow.

Ishyo Foods is a dairy and food processing company that sources its raw materials from 100,000 farmers in Gicumbi. Their latest product is Probiotic Yoghurt for children which is good for gut health and helps in boosting the immune system.

NjordFrey provides smallholder farmers with high-yield aquaponic systems with digital monitoring that reduces costs and waste, increases yields (3000% fish, 700% crops, 95% less water), and offers consistent food production.

Panovita produces bio-fortified processed foods (whole grain maize flour, infants & children porridge, and family porridge) targeting infants, children, and adolescent girls. Panovita combines natural grains germination (malting) technology and fortification to increase iron and energy density of food.

Tech Adopter manufactures customized agricultural machines/equipment and spare parts for agri/food processing and mechanization and has a mobile web platform called NTIZA that helps farmers to easily access agricultural resources such as tractors, power tillers, and skilled labor.

TechForce Group is a female-led social enterprise that produces low-cost compost from water hyacinth and kitchen waste to support food production for schools and farmers. The compost is designed to enhance soil fertility, increase yields per ha, and promote sustainable food production.

Triumvirate Food Co.Ltd produces affordable and nutrient-dense sardine powder (dry fish flour, fried fish flour, mix of fried fish, eggs, and squash nuts) to fight malnutrition in children and pregnant women.

Frequently Asked Questions

Looking for more information or have a question about the IGNITE Food Systems challenge? Please visit our FAQ page for answers to commonly asked questions. If you still have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us directly at [email protected].