Washington D.C. — HarvestPlus, a global leader in the development and distribution of biofortified crops, today announced it has received a 4 million pound ($5.2 million) grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) to help increase private sector involvement in the delivery of biofortified crops in Africa and South Asia.

Biofortified crops are naturally bred to be rich in micronutrients, such as vitamin A, zinc, and iron. The crops “biofortify” themselves by loading higher levels of minerals and vitamins in their seeds and roots while they are growing. When eaten, they can provide essential micronutrients to improve nutrition and public health.

The announcement was made by International Development Minister Lord Michael Bates in a speech at the Global Nutrition Summit last weekend in Milan.

“We are increasing our support to HarvestPlus to scale up private sector delivery of biofortified crops in Africa and South Asia – crops such as vitamin A-rich sweet potato and maize, zinc rice and iron-enriched beans,” he said. “The private sector, by helping to commercialise new technologies, can help us to reach people with innovative solutions to nutrition problems at a much larger scale.”

The grant builds upon DFID’s previous commitments to HarvestPlus, including its current four-year grant of 35 million pounds to enable 14 million smallholder farming households to grow biofortified crops on their farms by 2019.

“HarvestPlus deeply appreciates the support of the UK Department for International Development, which has empowered us and our partners to improve nutrition, health, and livelihoods by reaching millions of smallholder farmers in developing countries. This renewed investment will accelerate access to these nutrient-rich foods for vulnerable populations by engaging the private sector,” said HarvestPlus CEO Bev Postma. “We are grateful for this continued recognition of the sustainable and measurable impact that HarvestPlus has achieved, and applaud the impact that DFID funding has made in tackling malnutrition.”

HarvestPlus was founded in 2003 to help the approximately 2 billion people who suffer from “hidden hunger,” or a lack essential vitamins and minerals. HarvestPlus’ biofortified crops, which also boast other desired agronomic traits, such as high yields, disease resistance and drought tolerance, are currently being consumed by more than 26 million people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.