HarvestPlus, a global leader in biofortified foods, has been selected as a 2017 LAUNCH Food Innovator for its pioneering work in making staple food crops more nutritious and available to rural communities around the world.

HarvestPlus, along with its global partners, develops new, more nutritious varieties of sweet potatoes, beans, maize, cassava, pearl millet, wheat and rice. These improved varieties provide higher amounts of vitamin A, iron, and zinc — the three micronutrients identified by the World Health Organization as most lacking in diets globally.

It is estimated that about one million of the three million child deaths that occur each year are a result of undernutrition. Micronutrient deficiencies can cause a range of health problems, including stunting, blindness, a compromised immune system, and even death. Recent studies have shown that two HarvestPlus crops—the orange sweet potato and iron pearl millet—can dramatically reduce diarrhea and reverse iron deficiency in children.

“Biofortification is incredibly beneficial to vulnerable groups in rural farming communities, such as women and children,” said HarvestPlus CEO Bev Postma, adding that HarvestPlus aims to reach one billion people with biofortified staple crops by the year 2030.  “With the support of groups such as LAUNCH, we can realize our vision of a world free from the devastating social and economic effects of hidden hunger.”

HarvestPlus was one of 12 innovators selected from a pool of 280 applicants from 74 countries. Innovators will come together on March 28-29 at the LAUNCH Forum in San Francisco, where they will receive tailored feedback, creative support, and opportunities for funding.

LAUNCH was founded in 2009 by NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State, and NIKE Inc. Its mission is to build a community of innovators, thought leaders and decision makers to scale solutions for positive change toward a more sustainable society.

More than 100 biofortified varieties of 10 crops have been approved for cultivation in over 30 countries worldwide and are being tested in over 40 countries.