The company’s co-founders were honored in a ceremony in Boston, where five winners were announced by a line-up of presenters including The Princess of Wales; Academy Award-Winning actor Rami Malek; actor, screenwriter and comedian Catherine O’Hara and actor and advocate Shailene Woodley.
Kheyti, an Acumen investee co-founded by two Acumen Fellows, has been awarded Prince William’s Earthshot Prize, the world’s most prestigious environmental prize. Kaushik Kappagantulu and Sathya Raghu, Acumen 2014 Fellows, were nominated for the Earthshot Prize to Protect and Restore Nature. The entrepreneurs represent one of five winning teams chosen to each receive £1 million and a suite of support and resources to help scale their groundbreaking solutions to tackling the climate crisis.
Kheyti provides affordable, module greenhouses also known as “Greenhouse-in-a-Box” to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change in India, one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. “Kaushik and Sathya’s remarkable achievements with Kheyti are proof of what individuals can do with moral imagination, belief in community, and the courage to just start,” said Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen. “Kheyti is a role model for a new generation who are working to put our shared humanity and the sustainability of the Earth at the center of our systems. And we at Acumen couldn’t feel more thrilled.“
Acumen was also represented by 2017 Fellow Ankit Agarwal, founder of Phool, who was one of 15 finalists in the competition. Phool’s latest innovation, Fleather, upcycles floral waste in India to develop a sustainable alternative to leather. Phool collects used flowers from local temples, which would have otherwise dumped them in the Ganges, the world’s second-most polluted river.
At the ceremony, Prince William said of the entrepreneurs, “I believe that the Earthshot solutions you have seen this evening prove we can overcome our planet’s greatest challenges. And by supporting and scaling them we can change our future.”
Why This Matters
In India, where Kheyti and Phool both work on climate resilience initiatives, a general consensus has emerged in response to the recent COP27 summit: climate action must start from the grassroots. In a country whose economy is estimated to grow 7% this year, many people are being left behind due to the effects of climate impacts. Recent heat waves and heavy rain events in India have caused declining agricultural productivity and rising food prices. Projections suggest this will increase India’s poverty rate by 3.5% by 2040, equating to 50 million more poor people in less than 20 years’ time.
Since 2006, Acumen has invested in 36 local companies and awarded 206 Fellowships in India. Acumen’s work to build fairer markets from the ground up and support changemakers with a moral imagination plays an important role in tackling poverty, with organizations such as Phool and Kheyti creating thousands of jobs in conservation and sustainability. In the coming years, Phool will employ 5,000 “flowercyclers,” and Kheyti will provide 50,000 farmers with a Greenhouse-in-a-Box.
Acumen invested in Kheyti in 2020, after the company helped farmers grow seven times more food and increased their incomes by 60-100% in its first few years of operation. Phool has so far collected 13,000 tonnes of floral waste, which helps them produce 90 square feet of Fleather each day. All three Fellows are members of Acumen’s Foundry, its global community of Fellows and Accelerator alumni.
The Earthshot Prize, now in its second year, is centered around five “Earthshots” — simple, ambitious, and aspirational goals to improve the world for future generations. The Prize takes inspiration from President John F. Kennedy’s “Moonshot.” Each winner represents one of the following categories: Protect and Restore Nature, Clean Our Air, Revive Our Oceans, Build a Waste-Free World, and Fix Our Climate.
Winners of the Earthshot Prize were chosen by a diverse team of individuals including HRH Prince William, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Cate Blanchett, Daniel Alves Da Silva, Sir David Attenborough, Ernest Gibson, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, and Jack Ma. Billie Eilish, Annie Lennox, Finneas, and Ellie Goulding performed during the award ceremony, and The Princess of Wales, Rami Malek, Catherine O’Hara, and Shaileen Woodley presented the awards.
The ceremony will air on Sunday, December 4 at 5:30pm GMT on BBC and will begin streaming from The Earthshot Prize YouTube channel later that evening. In the U.S., it will begin streaming at 2:00pm EST on Monday, December 5 on PBS.org and the PBS App and at 8:00pm EST on the PBS YouTube channel.
Across Africa, the ceremony will premiere on Multichoice channels on Monday, December 5 at 17:00 WAT. PBS will also broadcast the event on Wednesday, December 14 at 8:00pm EST (check local listings). (All times subject to change).