Semilla Nueva improves nutrition, poverty, and climate resilience in Guatemala with biofortified corn seeds. They develop high yielding, climate resilient corn seeds that have been conventionally bred (non-GMO) to have higher levels of zinc, iron, and quality protein and promote and sell the seeds at subsidized prices to farmers and seed companies.
Corn is the primary staple crop for hundreds of millions of people. It is one of the cheapest source of calories, deeply rooted in local cultures, and is often seen as a safe bet for farmers who, given variable weather, markets, and inadequate social programs, want to make sure they will “at least have something to eat.”
However, current corn seeds are at risk from climate shocks and have low levels of key nutrients that trap hundreds of millions of consumers into malnutrition. Years of work attempting to diversify crops and education programs that emphasize diet diversification, have been met with limited success.
Semilla Nueva set out to change the seeds that farmers rely on. They develop, produce, and sell seeds to grow corn that is more drought and storm resistant and have twice the protein and 50% more zinc than current varietals at a price accessible to most farmers. In addition, they emphasize taste and yield, the attributes farmers and consumers demand. They started in Guatemala, which has one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, and are moving to other corn-reliant countries.
Why We Partner
With the recognition that there are great cultural and economic barriers to changing the established diets of people, Semilla Nueva provides a pragmatic approach to improving both livelihoods and malnutrition.
We like that they have a sustainable earned revenue model that uses philanthropic capital to pilot both technical and financial innovation, and then pivots towards established government subsidies to support the most at-risk farmers. They produce products at a price-performance point that makes them viable competition for established big-industrial seed stock producers.
While their work so far has not included GMO operations, they are pragmatic enough to recognize that this is a tool that can make huge advances in seed improvement and that is their next challenge. We fully support that premise and operation.
We believe their leadership is pragmatic, flexible, and dedicated to solving these problems.
We also love their dedication to impact monitoring, their open-source and radical transparency models, and their desire to collaborate on impact and data.
In summary, they have a viable opportunity to simultaneously address climate resilience, malnutrition, and farmer livelihoods.
Semilla Nueva has already produced seed stock that is market-competitive and successfully implemented two different funding models for growth at scale.
Just in 2022 – 20,505 farmer families used their seeds, and 596,332 individuals ate their biofortified corn.