Agriculture, Livelihoods, Gender

Type of Investment

Risk Capital

Project Stage
Test & Transition
Length of Investment


Investment Overview

A $1.8 million investment in S4S Technologies, whose innovative dryer uses solar power to preserve the produce of smallholder farmers in India, granting smallholder farmers a profitable route to market for produce that would otherwise have gone to waste. S4S focuses on enhancing female agency by employing rural women as processors to operate the dryers. They can earn double the annual income they make as farm labourers while operating the portable dryers from their own homes.


The Development Challenge

India is one of the largest growers of fruit and vegetables globally. However, extensive food loss across the value chain undermines economic growth, not only at the macro level but also for poor smallholder farmers who supply a majority of the fruit and vegetable market. The supply chain is inefficient and fragmented. Smallholder farmers lack the capital and opportunity to move into value addition activities (grading, sorting, drying etc.), as well as the investment required in forward market linkages. After the farmgate, produce passes through many intermediaries, eroding the volume and value of produce, due to damage in transportation and the perishable nature of produce. The Indian agricultural processing industry lags behind other markets in efficiency, since the supply chain fragmentation makes it almost impossible to procure sufficient volumes of produce.


The Innovation

S4S Technologies’ innovative dryer uses solar power to preserve fruit, vegetables, grains, and spices, and retains 35% more nutrients than traditional sun drying. After the drying process, shelf-life is increased by up to one year, versus a few days at most if not dried, meaning farmers have a second route to market for previously unsellable produce. The processors who convert the crops into dry ingredients using the device are all local women, trained by S4S in the use of solar drying technology, who can earn over double the annual income they make as farm labourers while operating the portable dryer from their own homes. Women are thereby aided in transitioning from low productivity subsistence labour to higher-income, dignified entrepreneurship work. S4S also purchases lower-grade produce – which would otherwise be rejected by buyers due to size, shape or colour – from local smallholder farmers, and brings it to the processors to dry. The dried produce is then packaged by S4S at a central facility for sale to large-scale production companies and food service providers, including Nestle and Sodexo.


Our Investment

S4S will use GIF’s investment of $1.8 million to deepen operations in existing and new states in India, to scale procurement of raw material (fresh fruit and vegetables), to roll out a new technology stack to drive value chain efficiencies and margin improvement, and to strengthen the team.


Why we invested

Gender and Climate impact – S4S is a unique innovation that sits on the Gender/Climate for-profit nexus. A growing body of evidence speaks for the role that investing in women has on climate action.

Innovative scalable model – There is strong demand from potential processors for the model, with over 4,000 women awaiting onboarding. The same is true of S4S’ clients, with good traction with industry buyers.

Excellent team – S4S has a great team of seven co-founders who all have strong backgrounds in science and technology, with four holding PhDs, and deep knowledge and experience in food and agriculture and rural markets.


S4S in numbers


More nutrients retained through S4S drying than by traditional sun drying


Of food wasted in India each year


Innovating for Gender Equality

S4S is the first gender transformative investment for Risk Capital, presenting a significant opportunity for GIF to de-risk a female-centric business model. S4S has been very commercially intentional and has focused on placing women at the core of its model, which explicitly addresses the three key aspects of female agency:

  1. Asset Control – S4S includes its processors in the formal financial system to become the ultimate owners of the processing equipment over five years.
  2. Voice – Processors contribute significantly to household income, which may give them greater participation in decision-making at the household level and in the community.
  3. Body – S4S trains processors in undernutrition and food security programmes, which, according to S4S research, has led to a 37% nutritional improvement in women’s health.

Innovating for Climate Resilience

S4S’ innovation is a valuable tool for mitigating the effects of climate change. This is because it enables a reduction in food wastage which otherwise generates CO2 emissions, and the use of solar processing is environmentally friendlier compared to traditional energy-intensive drying facilities. Additionally, transporting dried food requires less fuel per kg transported.

S4S also works towards climate resilience in two ways:

  1. Unpredictable weather and climate results in a higher proportion of unsellable, low-quality fruits and vegetables for smallholder farmers. S4S creates a market for this previously unsellable produce, boosting farmer income, therefore providing potential protection against shocks.
  2. Increasing heat threatens the health of female labourers in low-productivity agricultural jobs. S4S creates healthier and more remunerative jobs for women as processors, protected from direct sunlight.